The art of cutting paper, China Paper Cutting Museum

Chinese paper-cuts fall into two categories roughly based on artistic styles, namely, the northern and the southern. The renowned Chinese scholar Mr. Guo Moruo (1892-1978 AD) once composed a poem applauding the fabulous paper-cut art, which means, “I once saw the paper cuts from North China and was amazed by their innocent and genuine beauty; Now I see the paper cut-outs from South China and am fascinated by their exquisite and elegant charm; This is an ingenious folk craftsmanship created simply by a pair of scissors; May its charm last forever.” With their delicate, lively and elegant beauty, Yangzhou paper cuts have evolved into the masterpieces of the paper cut art in South China.

张秀芳(Zhang Xiufang)
Representative inheritors of Yangzhou paper cuts, part of national intangible cultural heritage.

Flowers in Full Bloom, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang, Zhao Hongmei, representative inheritors of Yangzhou paper cuts, an item listed in the State-level Intangible Cultural Heritage

Crafted for the celebration of the “2500th Anniversary of the Founding of Yangzhou”, this piece adopted a super large size.

It marked a breakthrough in the art of Yangzhou paper cuts.

Selected flowers represent of the four seasons, namely, peach, lotus, osmanthus and plum blossoms.

They symbolize the cycle of four seasons and changes of the times.

Flowers in Full Bloom, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang, Zhao Hongmei

February in Early Spring, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang
The camellia blossom, either in full bloom or in bud, seem to be exuding refreshing fragrance. The peach blossoms are shedding petals after an outburst of spring rain, creating a scene so dreamy that it’s as if colorful clouds are falling from the sky, as if birds cannot help but dancing and singing.

However, as it is February in early spring, plum blossoms are fighting against the still chilling wind with their elegant beauty. The herbaceous peony blossoms are even more enchanting after the nurturing of spring wind, as fascinating as young ladies, adding vitality to the image.

February in Early Spring

Inscription on Blooming Flowers in March, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang.

Blooming Flowers in March, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang
This piece depicts a scene of flowers in full bloom in March. The elegant viburnum, enchanting magnolia, fabulous camellia and charming crabapple, all in full bloom in the soothing breeze and warm sunlight of March create a vibrant and joyous scene together with the colorful butterflies flying and playing with each other among beautiful flowers.

Spring Charm, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang
This piece shows a beautiful spring scene of peony blossoms, the king of flowers, in full bloom with paired butterflies flying around. The stillness of sumptuous peony blossoms poses an interesting contrast to the liveliness of butterflies, constituting a scene of vigorous vitality.

Swallows, Willows and Peach Blossoms, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang

This piece represents a perfect combination of cutting skills and subjects. It adopted the theme of birds and flowers, which Yangzhou paper cuts are good at, with an elegant composition of well-arranged elements. In terms of techniques, it applied openwork cutting to illustrate the graceful willow leaves and branches, and the glamorous peach blossoms. The swallows, in different sizes and various postures, flying around the image, integrating the parts into an integral whole. All the elements, no matter the willows, the blossoms, or the swallows, were illustrated in the life-like manner thanks to the artisan’s ingenious cutting skills.

Cranes Flying Around Clouds, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang
In a composition consisting of evenly-arranged elements ending up with liveliness, this piece shows a perfect integration of application of multiple cutting skills with the subject. While illustrating the cranes with blocks or planes, the artisan adopted continuous lines as thin as hair to depict the clouds, creating an interesting contrast between lines and planes. Thanks to the artisan’s ingenious cutting skills, the cranes are so life-like that it seems as if they flying around the clouds, which look so light as a result of the curvy, flowing lines that they seem to be afloat.

Floral Patterns, earlier paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang

Refreshing and Lingering Fragrance, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang and Li Haixia

Four-panel Decorative Screen, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang
This is a decorative screen composed of four panels of paper cut-outs with the theme of birds and flowers, respectively featuring camellia and parrots, peony and Chinese bulbuls, chrysanthemum and sparrows and Chinese roses and blue birds. The different characters of the four kinds of flowers, the splendor of peony blossoms and the perseverance of chrysanthemums, for instance, were illustrated in detail. The birds, either flying in pairs or standing among flowers, add vitality and liveliness to the image. The artisan’s ingenious cutting skills are shown on the flowing lines and contrasts between light and shade, lines and planes, naturally folding leaves, and lively postures of birds, typical of Yangzhou paper-cuts.

Eight Dragons, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang
With an auspicious theme of dragons, this piece adopted the rule of strict symmetry in formal aesthetics, illustrating eight dragons radiating from the center towards the pearls. The image is composed of dragons, pearls and clouds, among which the clouds were outlined with well-arranged flowing curvy lines as thin as hair. This contributed to the light, graceful and floating look of the clouds, while the pearls and dragons were crafted based on the combination of “yin and yang”, namely, outline and openwork cutting techniques with blanks left for bodies and thin lines for dragon beards and pearl lusters, to express the tension of the subjects while echoing the lines on the clouds.

Full of contrasts between black and white as well as between thick and thin lines, this piece creates an appealing scene of vigorous dragons flying above clouds.

A Lone Fisherman in Spring, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang
This piece adopted the theme of a lone fisherman, a breakthrough in terms of subject for paper cut-outs, sitting on a boat sailing on the lake under floating clouds, with beautifully-shaped willows and reeds at the lake bank, creating a poetic scene characteristic of Chinese landscape paintings. All the elements are well-arranged in the composition, perfectly integrating tranquility and liveliness.

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The highlight of this piece lies in its lines, such as the flowing lines of ripples, the light and delicate lines of clouds, the straight line of the fishing pole and the vigorous lines of willow trees, all finished thanks to the combination of various ingenious cutting skills.

Rustic Beauty, paper cut-out by Zhang Xiufang
This piece shows a tranquil rustic scene in the crisp air under the clear autumn sky with Chinese parasol trees, red persimmon fruits, floating clouds, white sail boats, cute houses and bridges. Well-arranged elements in the composition, the meticulously-cut willow and parasol trees all contribute to a life-like scene, making this piece an exceptional landscape work.

张慕莉(Zhang Muli)

Representative inheritors of Yangzhou Paper-cuts, an item of intangible cultural heritage of Jiangsu province

Procedures of Paper-cutting: Draw patterns first. then sketch, then work on details, then star cutting.

One Hundred Horses, paper cut-out by Zhang Muli

Based on the long-scroll painting “One Hundred Horses” by the renowned Qing-dynasty court painter Giuseppe Castiglione (1688-1766 AD), this piece of paper cut-out reproduces the magnificent scene of one hundred horses with endless mountains and towering trees as the background. Marking an innovation and breakthrough of Yangzhou Paper-cuts, this piece is the largest in size among paper-cuts by scissors in Yangzhou.

One Hundred Horses, paper cut-out by Zhang Muli

Zen, paper cut-out by Zhang Muli.
Having achieved breakthroughs in terms of techniques of traditional paper cut-outs which were limited to the expressive skills in fine brushwork and line drawing, this piece had its figures crafted with the approaches of freehand painting.

It is rich in contents, fishing, playing the zither, watching the moon, preaching Buddhist sutra, creating a profound scene that symbolizes spiritual pursuit.

Autumn Splendor, paper cut-out by Zhang Muli
This piece reveals a scene of the autumn, the harvesting season that brings people endless delight.

Chrysanthemums of the autumn are comparable to peony blossoms in the spring, although most autumn plants are less glamourous than the spring ones.

The quaint flower table and the bonsais add special interest to this piece. The entire image looks elegant and delicate, showing a scene even more beautiful than the spring

Autumn Splendor, paper cut-out by Zhang Muli

Fragrant Flowers and Singing Birds, paper cut-out by Zhang Muli

This piece adopted the four plants representative of the four seasons, namely, cherry, lotus, grape and camellia, which, together with the paired flying birds and Chinese mandarin ducks, constitute a life-like scene that integrates stillness and liveliness.

The composition, with reference to the traditional Chinese perception of “round heaven and square earth”, looks both decorous and elegant. Regarding techniques, the artisan combined the “yin-cutting”, namely, outline-cutting featuring thin, flowing and connecting lines and the “yang-cutting”, namely, openwork-cutting known for no connections between lines and round cut corners.

Fragrant Flowers and Singing Birds, paper cut-out by Zhang Muli

Antique Vase, paper cut-out by Zhang Muli
This piece marks breakthrough of Yangzhou paper cuts in terms of both subjects and expressive methods.

With a form borrowed from the antique Chinese porcelain vases, this item endeavors to illustrate the atmosphere of profound meanings as depicted in Chinese poems of the Tang dynasty (581-960 AD) by integrating figures, landscape, birds, animals, flowers and calligraphy harmoniously in a simple composition.

China Paper Cutting Museum, Yangzhou, China

The China Paper-cutting Museum (Chinese: 中国剪纸博物馆) is located in the back garden of Wang’s Xiaoyuan, a historic district in Yangzhou. The museum displays a variety of styles of paper-cutting art from all over the country, and regularly holds the national paper-cut works “Shanhua Award” and related cultural exchange activities. The museum has collected more than 400 pieces of paper-cutting masterpieces from various genres across the country. The original site of the Chinese Paper-cutting Museum is located in Mazhan Lane, Yangzhou City, and has now been relocated to the Arts and Crafts Building.

Chinese paper-cutting is an important part of Chinese folk culture. Chinese paper-cutting has three major schools, namely, Shandong folk paper-cutting, Anhui folk paper-cutting, and Yangzhou folk paper-cutting. Yangzhou is one of the earliest areas of Chinese paper-cutting. In the Tang and Song Dynasties, there was a custom of “paper-cutting and spring”. Yangzhou in the Qing Dynasty, due to the development of the Jianghuai salt industry, brought prosperity to the city. Therefore, there are quite a lot of folk artists living in Yangzhou City. It is rumored that during the Jia and Dao years, the famous artist Bao Zheng was well known for his skill. Under the cutting of the baggage, flowers, birds, fish, and butterflies are all fascinating, and they are fascinating because of the reputation of “God Scissor”.