The paper-cut is one of China's most popular and characteristic folk arts. It takes paper as the material and scissors or engraving knives as the tool. In Chinese culture paper-cuts symbolize the idea of blessedness, luck and fortune.
The tradition can be traced back to the 6th century. In the past, paper-cuts were sometimes used for serving as decorations for sacrificial offerings to the ancestors and gods.
Nowadays most Chinese families use them as decorations for windows, entrance gates, walls, columns, mirrors, lamps and lanterns.
With a wide scope of subjects, the folk Paper-cut forms pictures through partial tone and symbolization. For example, peaches symbolize a long life and pomegranate symbolizes a plenty of children; "Dragon and Phoenix" indicating a happy and holy marriage; and "a magpie standing on a twig" means a good thing will happen. In the world of Paper-cut art, the skillful folk craftsmen make full use of their imagination to create various works with beauty and originality.
As a form of folk art, it occupies a significant position in the folk activities, with quite a few popular forms as follows:
Window paper-cut, or window flowers, refers to the type of paper-cut works pasted on windows as an ornament in case of some important holidays, such as Spring Festival. They are supposed to bring good luck for the family.
It is a type of paper-cut works that hang on the gate sills. It is also called "hanging label", "hanging money". It is in the form of flag with big head, double size and lower part as tassel. It is engraved on red paper or multi-colored paper, with geometrical patterns. Embedded with figures, flowers, phoenix, dragons and the other propitious characters, the gate label must be hung in series when hung up.
It is used to decorate the household appliances and indoor furniture, such as teapot, soapbox, basin, and dressing mirror. It takes the form of circle, rectangle, peach, pomegranate and other propitious patterns. The auspicious themes and red color imply happiness.
Gift paper-cut is attached to cakes, birthday noodles and eggs. In Shandong Province, people attach it onto the "happy egg" to celebrate a baby's birth. Tortoise-patterned paper cuts symbolic of longevity are commonly seen in the countryside of Fujian Province.