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Yuxian paper-cutting: a valuable cultural heritage in China

A piece of vivid Yuxian paper-cutting work featuring traditional Chinese elements. [Photo/China Daily]

Paper-cutting, a valuable traditional Chinese cultural heritage thriving in Yuxian county of Zhangjiakou city, Hebei province, plays an important role in the county’s cultural industry.

Yuxian paper-cutting has a history of more than 200 years, dating back to Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). Works are produced through the design of handmade patterns, blotting the paper, knife cutting and coloring.

Compared with other paper-cutting found throughout China, often fashioned by scissors and with paper of a single color, Yuxian paper-cutting is made with a special knife, and are multi-colored.

Hand-made tools for making paper-cutting works. [Photo/Xinhua]

"Yang" cutting is what most Chinese schools of the paper-cutting art form employ. This involves cutting out large portions of the paper, attributing a light, flimsy look to the finished product.

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.

A craftsman in Yuxian county makes a paper-cutting work. [Photo/Xinhua]

 A craftsman in Yuxian county colors a white paper-cutting. [Photo/Xinhua]


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.

Yuxian paper-cutting, with its unique style and rich cultural connotations, was named a national intangible cultural heritage in 2006.

In 2009 the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization put Yuxian paper-cutting on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.

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, and the annual value of the business is totaled at 400 million yuan ($58.7 million).

An old craftsman in Yuxian county sells his paper-cutting works on the street. [Photo/Xinhua]

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