The art of paper-cutting (jiǎnzhǐ 剪纸) in China may date back to the second century C.E., since the paper was invented by Cai Lun in the Eastern Han Dynasty in China. As paper became more affordable, paper-cutting became one of the most important types of Chinese folk art. Later, this art form spread to other parts of the world, with different regions adopting their own cultural styles.
Today, paper cuttings are chiefly decorative. They liven up walls, windows, doors, columns, mirrors, lamps and lanterns in homes and are also used on presents or are given as gifts themselves.
There are two methods of manufacture: one uses scissors, the other uses knives. In the scissor method, several pieces of paper — up to eight — are fastened together. The motif is then cut with sharp, pointed scissors.
Knife cuttings are fashioned by putting several layers of paper on a relatively soft foundation consisting of a mixture of tallow and ashes. Following a pattern, the artist cuts the motif into the paper with a sharp knife which is usually held vertically. Skilled crafters can even cut out different drawings freely without stopping.