Lesson 07 Chinese Word Paper Cutting

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Chinese Paper Cutting or Jianzhi (剪纸) is a traditional art in China.  The Chinese art of paper cutting has been around for centuries, and was first used for religious ceremonies and rituals.  It also originally served as guides for woodcutters and embroiderers. Today, paper cuttings are mainly used for decoration, and they have special meaning at Chinese festivals and holidays.  For example, during a wedding ceremony, a large red paper cutting of the 2 identical Chinese characters “喜” “Xi” which means happiness are displayed together to show double happiness signifying the union of 2 people.

There are two kinds of paper cutting: knife cutting and scissor cutting. Expert paper cutters depict very intricate images in their work.  Our beginning artists enjoyed the craft during this lesson by cutting out the special double happiness “xi” word often found at weddings.  Take a look at some pictures of expert paper cutting below.

double happiness word

paper cutting of woman sewing












I began the lesson by reading a popular Chinese folk story called 老鼠嫁女 “lao she jia nu” or The Mouse Marries Off Daughter.  The story goes like below.

Once upon a time, there was a mouse village.  The mouse mayor of the village wanted wanted to find the best suitor for his daughter to marry.  This suitor would be the greatest and strongest in all the land.  But who is the greatest and strongest in the whole world?  He thought the sun must be the greatest and strongest in the world.  However, when the mouse father went to talk to the sun, the sun said that the cloud is stronger because he can cover up the sun.  So the mouse father went to talk to the cloud about marriage.  The cloud told the mouse that the wind is even stronger because it can blow clouds away.  The mouse father went to talk to the wind.  The wind told the mouse that the wall was even stronger because it can stop the wind from passing.  So the mouse father went to talk to the wall about marrying his daughter.  The wall told him that the mouse was even stronger than him because the mouse can dig holes through the wall.  Upon hearing this, the mouse father was very surprised because he never thought that the best suitor in the world for his daughter would actually be a mouse.  Who knew that the mouse is the greatest and strongest in all the land.  In the end, the mouse father married his daughter to the handsome mouse next door happily.

After reading this traditional Chinese folktale, I demonstrated to the students step by step how to fold and cut 喜.
This is a sample of what the the “xi” “喜” word looks like when combined with another “xi” “喜”.  I think the students did a great job with folding, drawing, and cutting.  First, we began to practice folding and cutting on white paper.  Sometimes it took only one sheet of white practice paper for the student to get it.  Other times it might have taken 3 or more times practicing before the student feels comfortable.  Not a single student gave up and kept trying until they felt comfortable enough to cut the word on red paper.

Simon, Bodhi, and Jachin practice cutting on white paper

Lolo practices on white paper first










Annabelle and Carlotta pauses to smile for camera

Brooks and Leia finished their practice sheet










Ananya almost finished

Simone and Milo working hard together














All the paper cutting turned out different and that is because the students folded, drew the parts for cutting, and cut by themselves.  See what wonderful paper cutting art we made.

Jude is very proud!

Lucia and Ananya holding their double 喜

Annabelle, Penny, and Kaya holding double 喜

Simone, Ally, and Simon's unique 喜 paper cutting

Quinn smiling huge with her 喜

Jachin's very symmetrical 喜

Brooks is very happy with his paper cutting

Katrina, Paula, and Alexia's beautiful paper cuts

Milo and Leia holding up their 喜

Emmi and Tessa with their paper cuts


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