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One of China's most popular folk arts is paper-cut. Archaeological finds trace the tradition back to the 6th century AD, although it is thought that it began a few centuries earlier.
Chinese paper cuts were used for religious and ceremonial purposes. They have been buried with the dead and burned at funerals. They were also used as offerings to ancestors and the gods. Paper cuts have special significance on festivals and holidays. It is customary, for instance, to decorate entrances with paper cuts during the Spring Festival to celebrate the Chinese New Year. The paper cuts are supposed to bring good luck.
Paper cuts often depict birds, dragons, and other animals. It is also common to see Chinese characters meaning such things as "prosperity" on paper cuts. Whatever the design, the meaning is usually symbolic, and they are as such considered auspicious. Red paper is commonly used, since red is the most auspicious color in China. However, multi-colored paper cuts can also be found.
Today in China, paper cuts are chiefly used as decoration. They adorn walls, windows, doors, columns, mirrors, lamps, and lanterns. They are also used to decorate gifts and are given as gifts themselves. They are used as patterns for embroidery and lacquerare.
Chinese paper cuts are not supposed to be produced by machine, but by hand using scissors or knives. In the countryside, they are usually made by women and girls. This used to be one of the crafts that every girl had to master in order to be considered a worthy bride. Professional paper-cutting artists are almost always men, who work together in shops and earn their living from the craft.
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