Paper cutting is a traditional art in China which has been making its way along the route of the long history of paper. The first paper cut can be traced back to the Northern and Southern Dynasties (386-581) period. The initiation and spread of paper cuts had a close relationship with Chinese rural festivals. People pasted paper cuts on walls, windows and doors at wedding ceremonies or festivals to enhance the festival atmosphere.
The themes of paper cuts usually include everything in people's daily life from dumb things to the surroundings. Paper cuts made in different areas have different characteristics. Shaanxi window paper cuts are simple and bold; paper cuts from Hebei Province and Shanxi Province are bright in color; paper cuts in southern provinces are delicate and fine.
The art forms are mainly used as decorations and patterns for religious and ornamental purposes. Paper cuts can also be used as ornaments on gates, windows, walls, columns, mirrors, lamps and lanterns. They are still widely used today at important festivals, especially during the New Year. It is very important to put paper cuts at the entrance gates for good luck for the family. Paper cuts can also serve as presents or as decorations on gifts and sacrificial offerings to the ancestors or gods. In addition, they can be used as embroidery patterns for clothes and lacquer works.
The main tool for paper cut is scissors. Once they are owned by a master of papercut, they will become so supernatural that the paper cuts beyond imagination flow out of his/her hands in the chattering of a common pair of scissors. Another tool for paper cutting is engraving knives which are necessary to enhance a sharpened effect or to make a delicate job.
In Chinese folk culture, the art of paper cutting has a significant status in folk activities. Professional paper-cutting craftsmen have been around as early as the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279). Paper cutting was once a handicraft that every native girl mastered. Paper-cut craftsmanship was often used to select brides-to-be. Currently, paper cutting craftsmanship is mostly evident among countrywomen.