Paper Cutting

Paper cutting is one of the oldest and most popular folk arts in China. It is practiced throughout the country and by various ethnic groups. The main cutting tools are simple: paper and scissors or an engraving knife. The artworks are often made of red paper, as red is associated with festivities and happiness in Chinese culture, though other colors are often used. As decorations, paper cuttings enliven walls, windows, doors, and mirrors in homes. They are also used in festivals, weddings, childbirth, and prayers. Three generations of paper cutters came from Shaanxi Province to the 2014 Smithsonian Folklife Festival program China: Tradition and the Art of Living: Gao Fenglian (高鳳蓮) and her daughter Liu Jieqiong (劉潔瓊) and granddaughter Fan Rongrong (樊蓉蓉). In this video, they explain why paper cutting is so important to them and their cultural heritage, how they are sharing their passions and skills with others, and how paper cutting is one way to express their emotions.

Questions for Discussion

  • What are some adjectives you would use to describe the paper cutting artisans interviewed in the video? What drives them to create their art?
  • Why are many traditional Chinese paper cutting artworks red? What is the significance of the color red in Chinese culture?
  • If you have ever made a snowflake by cutting folded paper, then you are already on your way to becoming a paper cutting artist! Create your own paper cutting design based on inspiration from this video.