Carving Color: Wei County Paper-cuts

China Intangible Heritage Industry Alliance

Wei County Paper-cuts
Commonly known as “Wei County Window Flowers”, Wei County Paper-cuts is an art form of colored carved paper that is formed and mainly popularized in this county in Hebei province adjacent to Beijing based on the main material of white raw rice paper and the techniques of “yin-cutting”, namely, outline-cutting featuring thin, flowing and connecting lines and the “yang-cutting”, openwork-cutting known for no connections between lines and round cut corners, with the former as main and the latter subordinate. Historical recordings indicate that paper-cuts of Wei county has a history of more than 150 years as it originated in the reign of Emperor Daoguang during the Qing dynasty (1644-1912 AD), while its history could be much longer according to legends which suggest that it might date back to as early as the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 AD).

Tools for making paper-cuts.

Craftsmanship of making paper-cuts.

Classic Paper-cuts by Ren Yude
Born in 1941 in Miaojiazhai village of Wei county, Ren Yude has been engaging in paper-cuts since his childhood under the influence of his mother and started to serve as a full-time paper-cut designer in the Paper-cut Factory of Wei County in 1973. Based on the long-term exploration and study of folk techniques of paper-cuts, Ren Yude has found his own style, good at exaggerations.

Ren Yude is coloring a paper-cut.

Wild Boar Forest. Adopted from the Chinese literary classic Water Margin, the household Peking opera Wild Boar Forest tells the story about Lin Chong, the righteous martial arts instructor for the Imperial Guards, who decided to join the outlaws at Mount Liang after being framed by the vicious minster Gao Qiu.

Qin Xianglian. Qin Xianglian is the character in the household folklore in China, which tells stories of Qin who came to the capital with her children in order to reunite with her husband Chen Shimei arriving earlier for the Imperial Examination. Much to her surprise, Qin found that not only had Chen got No.1 in the examination and married the emperor’s daughter, he also intended to kill Qin and their children so as to keep his wealth and status. The disgraced Chen was finally brought to justice thanks to the fair trial by the righteous mayor of the capital Bao Zheng.

Female Generals of the Yang Family. Female Generals of the Yang Family is a group of widowed heroines from the same family the Yangs led by She Taijun against nomadic invaders in the early Norther Song dynasty (960-1127 AD). Among these brave female generals who helped the Song court achieve incomparable victory during the war, Mu Guiying was the most brilliant. This piece illustrates a scene of Mu fighting vigorously against enemies on the battlefield.

Great Sage Equaling Heaven (in costume and make-up of Peking Opera). Sun Wukong, who proclaimed himself the “Great Sage Equaling Heaven”, is a household mythological character in China more known as Monkey King in the west. Legend has it that the resourceful Sun, born out of the magic stone generated from the separation between Heaven and earth, masters great magic power such as 72 transformations. The Monkey King in this piece is in the costume and makeup as the character in the Peking opera Uproar in Heaven.

Mighty Miracle God. Also a character in the Chinese literary classic Journey to the West, Mighty Miracle God is a warrior in Heaven who has such incomparable might that he is able to lift high mountains and split giant rocks. The Mighty Miracle God portrayed in this piece, holding two giant hammers as weapon, inspires a sense of awe.

Li Kui—Peking Opera Facial Make-up. Li Kui is a key character in the book Water Margin, and also the most important role of the popular opera “Water Margin” of the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368 AD). He is nicknamed “Black Whirlwind” given his black skin and quick actions.

Yang Zhi—Peking Opera Facial Make-up.

Jiang Menshen—Peking Opera Facial Make-up. Originally named Jiang Zhong, Jiang Menshen is a villain depicted in Water Margin who forcefully took possession of the Happy Woods Tavern which didn’t belong to him, ending up being beaten by Wu Song and deprived of the ownership of the tavern. This piece gives full expression to the hooligan.

Qin Ming—Peking Opera Facial Make-up. Qin Ming is also one of the 108 outlaws portrayed in the classic Water Margin. He got the nickname “Fierce Thunderbolt” because of his quick temper. The red beard and hair of Qin in this piece were designed to echo his personality.

Dragon and Snake (of the Chinese Zodiac series). The Chinese zodiac animals have been the time-honored symbols of Chinese folk culture and commonly-seen subject in the folk art. This piece illustrates the zodiac dragon and snake, which rank the 5th and the 6th respectively among the twelve animals.

Longevity and Fortune for China. Centering on the Chinese character “longevity”, this piece has combined various auspicious motifs including bats, peaches, ruyi, pines and cranes, carps and lotus flowers, etc., to wish longevity and good fortune for Mother China.

Longevity and Fortune for China.

Chinese Zodiac Offering Best Wishes. The Chinese zodiac is a repeating cycle of twelve years, with each year represented by an animal, which are rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, goat, monkey, rooster, dog and pig. This piece shows a Chinese character of “fortune” composed by the twelve Chinese zodiac animals based on the ingenious and interesting design.

The details of Chinese Zodiac Offering Best Wishes

The Virtuous Deserving Longevity. Longevity or even immortality has been what the human being is never tired of longing for, while longevity is also an indicator to assess a happy or not life in China. With the Chinese character “longevity” composed of the twelve Chinese zodiac animals and the inscription of “only the virtuous deserve longevity”, the artisan of this piece express the view that only by being an upright, honest and dignified person that one can be blessed.

The details of The Virtuous Deserving Longevity.

Chinese Precious Bird Brown-eared Pheasants. This piece adopted brown-eared pheasants as subject, which is a precious species that is listed as first-class animals and birds under protection in China. In this highly-decorative piece which applied eye-catching contrast colors, two pheasants stand among beautiful peony flowers and other plants, which add liveliness and vitality to the image.

The details of Chinese Precious Bird Brown-eared Pheasants.

Chinese Dragon. With the image of dragon, the time-honored symbol of the Chinese race, the artisan intends to convey best wishes for resurgence and reunification of our mother country, further expressed by the inscription that “The giant dragon flies above the Divine Land; reunification of China is the wish of us all”.

China Intangible Heritage Industry Alliance
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