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Since the Chinese invention of 105 A.D. Paper has been used by mankind in so many ways. In the office, in the school, in shopping malls, in airplanes and even in the comfort rooms, we find papers in many forms and uses. In fact, it's pretty amazing to know that one of the first Chinese to use paper was as a medium for cutting out shapes and forms.
During the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386 - 581 A.D.), it has become a tradition to carve complicated patterns of paper. This was the beginning of the art of Chinese paper processing called Jian Zhi. The early practitioners of this art depicted in their paper-cut creations their simple lives, their ambitions and their convictions. A favorite subject is objects that are symbols of happiness and happiness. These paper clippings were used by the people to decorate their houses during festivals and even used by women as hair ornaments during the Tang Dynasty.
The Song Dynasty greatly improved the papermaking process and introduced different paper colors. The paper craftsmen of the time used the colored paper to good use in their paper cuts. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, the paper cutting art reached its peak to the point that it became a necessary skill for women before they could marry. The subject covered by Chinese creations of Paper Cut was also expanded to cover flora and fauna, scenes from their traditional stories and folklore, and even make pictures of their famous heroes and mythical gods.
Today, China has many paper cut artists who specialize in paper cutting. The knowledge was usually transmitted by generations of paper artists in their family or hometown. There are different styles for reproducing paper shavings in each region of China. Previously, there were only traditional Chinese themes, but today Western images and modern art are featured in some paper cuts.
Paper processing has also emerged in other countries such as Germany and Switzerland, they have what is called scherenschnitte, in Denmark they have paper clips, in Mexico they have papel picado, the Polish have wycinanki, the Netherlands has paper cutting, the Japanese have kirigami and katagami and even with a country like Lithuania has its own style of paper cut.
The Chinese paper cut called Zhong guo Jian zhi (Chinese Paper Cut) is made either by cutting with scissors or by sculpting the patterns and shapes using a scalpel-like knife. The paper commonly used for Jian Zhi is called Xuan Paper. This paper comes from Anhui Province where it is made from the fibers of a pine.
Scissors cutting involves folding and cutting the paper and the resulting patterns are usually symmetrical due to the creases. Non-symmetrical cuts can also be made with scissors. Chinese Paper Cut masters who only have scissors for one tool can produce the most ornate patterns on paper. Cutting paper is usually larger in size and scale than knife sculpted paper.
Knife sculpture of paper is currently practiced in China. The very skilled paper-cut artists can sculpt even the thinnest and delicate lines of paper. There is a paper cut art style in China called Xi Wen style or roughly translated into English, meaning "thin line" style. Thin-paper cut artists can carve 50 rows onto a square inch of paper. Once, a thin line of paper cutters cut out 100 flowers on one square inch of paper.
Various regions in China have cared for their own styles by Jian Zhi. Some counties like Yu County in Hebei Province specialize in colored hand-painted paper-cut art. Each regional style has its own distinct characteristic. The Zhan Pu style of paper cutting from Fujian Province even differs in the type of paper they use. They use a glossy paper called la guang (wax paper) instead of Xuan Paper. They also have a special cutting tool called pai jian which is like a fork that can carve out hair like patterns on paper.
Paper Cutting is a tradition in China and is part of Chinese life. During festivals and holidays such as the Chinese New Year, every home must have some jian zhi that adorns its walls, windows or doors. This is akin to having a Christmas tree and mistletoe at home for the Christmas holidays in the western world.
More information about Jian Zhi is available at www.chinaartworld.com.cn. On this site you can also see a wide selection of Chinese paper cutting art by various Chinese Paper Cut artists.