A symbolic sign of Chinese handicraft art: YuXian Paper-cut

The traditional paper-cut of Yuxian (a county in northern China's Hebei Province) is renowned at home and abroad. Yuxian's paper-cuts, originated from the Ming Dynasty, has its unique craftsmanship among all variety of Chinese paper-cutting art, because its paper-cuts are (stippling andincising) carved out rather than cut out. Therefore, Yuxian's paper-cuts are praised as "a beautiful symbolic sign of Chinese handicraft art".

Rather than using scissors to create detailed images and patterns, Yuxian craftsmen carve into the paper with a thin, sharp knife capable of finely slicing the paper. This allows the artist to focus on small details, giving the image an essence of realism.

There are four major procedures to making Yuxian's paper-cut: First, sketch the pattern on the draft paper; second, tack the draft to the paper, to be cut; third, use a knife to carve out the pattern; and fourth, dye the paper-cut with pigments of various colors.

Meticulous cutting skills are needed to make a paper-cut of Yuxian, which highlights the craft maker's artistic taste and dyeing skills. That explains the following saying: "The successful making of a Yuxian paper-cut is 30 percent dependent on the maker's cutting skills, and 70 percent on the maker's dyeing skills."

As for content presented in paper-cutting, the works of Yuxian county feature opera figures, legendary stories, harvests, auspicious animals, and themes of happiness and longevity.

Paper-cutting works are mainly used as decorations and patterns for religious and ornamental purposes. They are also be used to ornament gates, windows, walls, columns, mirrors, lamps and lanterns. They are still widely used today during important festivals, especially during Chinese New Year.

Another distinctive feature of the Yuxian tradition is the mass production of paper-cutting.More than 38,000 residents in Yuxian county are engaged in the paper-cutting business, with an annual output volume of six million sets of paper-cutting works. The valuable cultural artworks are sold to over 100 countries and regions every year.

In October 2009, the art of Yuxian's paper-cut was added to the list of intangible cultural heritage established by UNESCO.

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