Photo by Panda Young
The third Chinese Corner event taught students the essence of Chinese Paper-cutting. The lesson was taught by one of the Chinese language professors. She essentially gave us the history of this art and the steps to perfecting our paper-cutting skills. Many students enjoyed the opportunity to learn such a prestige tradition.
Before diving into the fun, we certainly were eager to learn the history so that we can get the full understanding of this common Chinese tradition. Paper-cutting is considered a folk art to the Chinese and actually holds the spot of the most famous Chinese tradition. This tradition all started with the invention of paper during the Han Dynasty from 206-220 BCE. But, it wasn’t until the Tang and the Song Dynasty that the actually quality and want for paper actually flourished. And eventually paper-cutting came into play, starting a life-long legacy of fun. This folk art had originally started out as being just a holiday tradition for the Spring Festival. The Chinese natives would cut a beautiful design into the paper and hang it on their windows in order to have good luck for the season. The decorations that were used on their windows became known as “window blossoms” or “window flowers”.
As a Chinese tradition, the Chinese use their creations to function as many different things making each production as unique as the other. Window flowers (or window blossoms) aren’t the only popular use; paper-cutting is used to draft designs for embroidery crafts. Chinese also use paper-cutting to outline several furniture designs in order for each chair or table to have significant meanings to the creators. Excitingly, they also use the unique designs of paper-cutting for making shadow puppets which entertain children of all ages. The list of functions for Chinese paper-cutting can go on and on from designs of lanterns to fashion designs and even cultural artifacts. Chinese paper-cutting designs are most commonly seen throughout the houses of newlywed couples symbolizing their unity, literally standing for double happiness and are made of red paper representing love. During the Chinese Corner event, we all personally made the wedding symbol as the first design of the night. It was cool. The process was continually compared to as the common American tradition of cutting and designing snowflakes in winter.
Chinese paper-cutting is made out of a really thin sheet of paper, similar to Americans gift-wrapping tissue paper. The Chinese use such thin paper so they can be able to fold the paper multiple times making duplicates of their original design.
The instructor also taught us some Chinese words which became a pretty exciting moment for the non-Chinese speaking students. The word “xun yang” means smoking sample used to print the design. The concept caught my attention. Because the Chinese paper cutting tradition dates back so far back in time, the Chinese used fire to make the thin paper wet and capable to print the exact design for possible options to duplicate or creations of multiple designs on one product.
We also learned:
Sheji which is the word for design
Zhi which is the word for paper
Experiencing this tradition was very educational and I encourage everyone reading this to attend at least one Chinese Corner during your time at PC!