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Xiaogan paper cutting


    Women of Xiaogan city, Hubei province, have the folk custom of singing Qing Qi songs on the fifteenth day of the first lunar month.

  They seek advice with the Seventh Fairy, "in the first month of the lunar year, the wheat straw is green. I ask that the Seventh Fairy to see festive lanterns and tell me how to cut peonies with an ingenious heart. Tell me how to embroider phoenix with deft hands. I will slaughter white pigs and sheep to receive you every year." This reveals the women's anticipation to seek inspiration. It calls for diligent study and strenuous training to have such craftsmanship. Women of deft hands enjoy great esteem in the society.

  It is said that an old man in his 60s who lives in the city will continue to carry an engagement pouch on his waist that was presented by his lover when they were young. This shows how powerful the folk art is in conveying affections.

  For a period, it was the fashion in Fangxian county under Xiaogan to present the paper-cuttings of Chinese verses to friends and relatives. The people seeking the paper-cuttings would cite a line and the creative paper-cutting artists would cut them with scissors on forms of paper. A newly-wed daughter-in-law would send a paper-cutting with a polite remark, "thank you for all the troubles" to her mother-in-law. The mother-in-law would give a paper-cutting in return, saying, "both the son and the daughter-in law are her children," which suggests the elders would treat the son and daughter-in-law equally. They would express what they may have felt embarrassed to say at ordinary times into their paper-cuttings.

  Paper cutting is also known as carving patterns in Hubei province. There are hundreds of carving craftsmen in Wuhan and Echeng. There was a guild of paper-cutters in the late Qing Dynasty and early Republic of China days, a rare case across the country. Similar to craftsmen in other parts of the country, Hubei carving craftsmen have superior skills and meet diversified aesthetic demands. They express their individual emotions between the lines of carved patterns.