Symbolism in Chinese Paper Cutting (剪纸)

by Lily X. Yang

Chinese Paper Cutting, one of my favorite types of traditional Chinese design, has been adapted to the digital creative processes to reflect the contemporary Chinese social environment. The form of Paper Cutting itself is distinctive for the highly stylistic and symbolic design, while the themes cover a huge variety of activities that average people, particularly rural residents engage. With pleasant colors and shapes, this type of decorations are usually produced to serve the celebration of Chinese New Year. During the coldest days of a year, family members enjoy this simple yet captive creativity, and merrily “publish” their artworks by pasting them on the doors and windows (therefor they are also referred to Window Flower 窗花).

I find it is fascinating to observe the contrast between the two layers of imagery on a window – the ideals and happiness presented with the red paper cutting, and the grayish, chilly reality behind it. From the very beginning, I question that what is hidden underneath the seemingly hopeful, in fact rather bitter bright red, which gradually becomes ironically connected with the famous slogan educating our Young Pioneers of China, ‘The Red Scarf is dyed with the Martyr’s blood”…

The following digital images (by Lily) mimicking the style of Paper Cutting have been displayed in Land of Illusion since 2006:

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