April 20, 2011
Almost two thousand years ago, something happened in China that would revolutionize the world as we know it – paper was invented.
Cai Lun, a Han Dynasty official and inventor of paper , not only gave new meaning to the way in which we communicate, but instigated one of the oldest and most beautiful art forms found in China. Paper-cutting began to develop as early as the 5th century CE with the earliest surviving piece dating back over 1400 years.
What began as a simple technique of cutting shapes out of paper, soon flourished in China, and in the Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE) it began to mature as a serious art form. Paper-cutting became a prerequisite for the young girl wanting to marry, since it portrayed a basic skill as well as the mark of a cultured individual. The subject matter of paper-cutting began to branch out as well, and what started out as simple circular designs, became intricate patterns depicting landscapes, flora and fauna, gods and folk lore.
Still today, paper-cutting is found throughout China, with cut-outs used in festivals, marriages and cultural rituals. Often they exist merely to perform an aesthetic function, since their beauty and intricacy are often incomparable. Yet their symbolism is rarely ignored in Chinese culture. Infused with modern themes, paper-cutting may be bought in gift shops and from artists alike.
The Confucius Institute gave students an opportunity to learn more about the history, techniques and significance behind one of China’s most prestigious art forms. After watching a brief tutorial on basic shapes and techniques used, students chose their own paper and designs, and proceeded to create their own colourful cut-outs.
This workshop was another in the series of workshops offered by the Confucius Institute and Chinese Society, in order to bridge the gap between Chinese culture and our own, as well invite students to share in a practice that has persisted for hundreds of years. More pictures can be found here.