Zhou Shuying demonstrates her paper-cutting skills at her workshop in Yuxian. Photos by Tang Zhe / China Daily
Distinguished by their delicate composition, vivid shapes and flamboyant colors, Yuxian paper-cuts challenge people's normal understanding of these Chinese artworks as red flowers for windows. They are considered a rich and honored part of Chinese traditional folk heritage.
Yuxian County, situated in the northwest of Hebei province, is famous for its multi-colored paper-cuts, which are produced through processions of handmade patterns, blotting the paper, knife cutting and coloring.
Rather than using scissors to create detailed images and patterns, Yuxian craftsmen carve into the paper with a thin, sharp knife, which can finely slice the paper and allow the artist to focus on small details. This gives the image an essence of realism.
With a history of more than 200 years, Yuxian paper-cutting, with its unique skills and rich cultural connotations, was named a national intangible cultural heritage in 2006.
However, with computer design and mechanized production providing a faster and easier way to generate more profits, some traditional artists worry that the increasing use of modern technologies will strip the essence of the manual art.
Zhou Shuying, a renowned paper-cut artist from Yuxian, has devoted herself to preserving and developing the art.
Influenced by her father Zhou Yongming, who was the first person to produce the paper-cuts of opera masks, the 49-year-old is also a pursuer of excellence. She spends a whole day coloring a fist-sized flower, and a work of four meters long has taken her eight months to finish.