Cutting paper dragons: craftsmanship and art together

Cai Defu, a man of 67, has been working as a paper-cutting artist throughout his life.

Filmed by Zhou Shengjie. Edited by Zhong Youyang. Translated by Jessica Chen. Polished by Andy Boreham.

The art of paper-cutting dates back to the second century and is one of the most important Chinese folk arts used to decorate windows and doors.

Cai Defu, a man of 67, has been working as a paper-cutting artist throughout his life. “I learned paper-cutting from my mom when I was young and later I continued to study myself,” he said.

Doing paper-cutting is not an easy thing. One of the aspects of paper-cutting alone includes five categories: one-cutting, two-cutting, direct cutting, breaking cutting and overlapped cutting.

"Keeping on doing one thing is tiresome and my hands are full of scars and callouses," Cai said. This is also the main reason why he has yet to found a suitable student to pass the skill on to.

It is also necessary for artists to be ahead of the times if they want to make a decent product. Mr. Cai mentioned his identity was not only a craftsman, but an artist.

“In addition to the learning and promoting of our tradition, I want to have a breakthrough in art and hold an individual exhibition and show something different. That’s what I want to do for the rest of my life,” he said.

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