Famous Canadian superstar Rachel McAdams made an impact with her “Chinese paper-cut style” inspired longuette on the red carpet at the 64th annual Cannes Film Festival. The inspiration of the design for this longuette is from traditional Chinese paper-cutting, and its partly hidden and partly visible guise, together with the exquisite arabesque and lace made her a highlight of the show. It is really a terrific example of traditional Chinese culture seamlessly combined with modern style. Thus, I'd like to take the opportunity to discuss a little bit more about this beautiful and ancient tradition including how it developed, how it is typically practiced, and how it has developed into the present.
During the Spring Festival，many Chinese like to paste paper-cuttings on windows for decoration，these help to foster a festive atmosphere as well as bring a general sense of enjoyment to people.
These can cover a wide range of subjects，and typically revolve around the every day lives of farmers，such as tilling，weaving，fishing, and herding. In addition，they can cover traditional myths，folktales，and the twelve animals of the Chinese zodiac.
Through both intentional exaggeration and transfiguration，these paper-cuts fully express the good wishes of Chinese people.
Symbolism in Chinese Paper Cuttings
The images typically depicted in Chinese Paper Cuttings are extremely symbolic. Below are some of the more popular and widely used imagery.
12 Animals of the Chinese Zodiac
Peacocks and magpies are both considered birds which can bring people good luck.
“She grows in the mud, but not contaminated; she bathes in the clear water but not coquettish.”
Lotuses have always symbolized purity and integrity. If two flowers growing from the same base , we call this in Chinese, “并蒂莲”. These paper cuttings can be offered as a sign of love and marital luck!
The character for fish in Chinese is written “鱼”，pronounced “Yu”, the same as the character “余”which means surplus. People thus use fish to express the hope of becoming rich and affluent.
Mandarin duck, in Chinese,“鸳鸯”, symbolizes affectionate couples. This kind of paper cutting is usually used for weddings.
In Chinese culture, Dragons and Phoenixes, “龙 “and “凤” are two very auspicious creatures. There is a Chinese saying that goes, “龙凤呈祥”，which means “prosperity brought by the dragon and the phoenix”.
Dragons also symbolize the emperor, and phoenix, the queen, so “望子成龙” or “Wangzi Cheng Long, which roughly translates to “Hope for the child to become a dragon” is said to express the eagerness of Chinese parents for their children to achieve greatness
The Red Crowned Crane and David's deer are regarded as symbols of longevity and imperial power respectively.
Present Status of Chinese Paper Cuttings
As society develops, fewer and fewer people learn this skill while there are some who still regard it as a profession. At present, there are factories and associations for paper cutting in China. Exhibitions and exchanges are held regularly and books of this kind are published. Paper cutting has changed from decoration to a kind of art. At the same time, paper cutting also appears in cartoons, on stage, in magazines or in TV series’. In my opinion, it is good that traditional Chinese culture takes on new appearances with different styles and different meanings, but what will never change is the sense of beauty and sense of happiness that paper cutting brings the Chinese people.
- Coral Lee- CPG Sourcing Associate