Intangible cultural heritage of China: Yantai paper-cut
Updated : 2015-03-13
Yantai paper-cut. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]
Known for its delicate skill and innovative characters, Yantai paper-cuts boast a time-honored history and is a leader in paper-cutting craftsmanship nationwide. The art form has garnered a strong reputation both in China and abroad.
Yantai paper cutting became a popular art in Shandong as early as the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing dynasties (1644-1911). The activity originated in the Han Dynasty (BC 206-220) when women would cut tinsel and colored silks into accessories for hair, and now, paper cuts have taken the form of all kinds of images ranging from flowers and plants, animals to people and are often hung on windows and doors during festivals.
The paper-cutting forms were originally based on window structures. In 1861, paper cuts were used to promote Christianity as their form were influenced by Western preachers when Christianity was popularized in Yantai.
In 1927, an American established the Yuhuangding Paper-cutting Institute, the first paper-cutting research institute in China. In 1934, the American, together with two American doctors at the Yuhuangding Hospital, funded the Yuhuangding Paper–cuts factory, combining the Eastern art form with Western elements. The institute and the factory designed and produced a large number of paper cuts such as greeting and business cards and bookmarks, and then exported them to Western countries. They made great contributions to the spreading and industrialization of Yantai paper-cuts.
The Yantai paper-cut features various themes such as plum blossoms, phoenix and peony flowers, Chinese zodiac symbols, famous tourist attractions, Peking opera masks and Olympic mascots.
Famous paper-cut masters Zhu Manhua, Luan Shurong and her sister Luan Shujuan have won various awards in all kinds of paper cutting contests held in China. Zhu Manhua was even received by the Australian prime minister and ambassadors of many countries, and has won plaudit for her incredible craftsmanship.
In 2011, Chinese paper-cutting was listed as UNESCO's World Intangible Cultural Heritage. The Yantai paper-cut plays a significant role in Chinese paper cutting. It is also the only item from Yantai to be included on the list of UNESCO's cultural heritages.