Du Jun and Zhou Ping-Ying

rg15-03-04.2 benedictine sisters and friends v.4no.3 spring 2000.jpg

Du Jun at Saint Benedict's Monastery (2000)

Du Jun and Zhou Ping-Ying.png

Du Jun and Zhou Ping-Ying

Du Jun Teaching Children.png

Du Jun Teaching Children Papercutting

Zhou Ping-Ying Working in Bed.png

“Many of the artists’ studios are simply their own beds. From there, they display their works on the windows and walls of their rooms-window flowers." -Sister Baulu Kuan

Du Jun was the artist-in-residence at CSB in 2000. The exhibit "The Folk Art of Papercutting" featured the work of Du Jun and her grandmother Zhou Ping-Ying, along with six other artists. Papercutting played a major role in Chinese peasants’ lives. It was a way to decorate their home and a source of entertainment while retelling legends and fairytales. It is also used to pass on history and act as good-luck charms to protect homes from natural disasters. Portraits are made to preserve the memories of beloved family members. Sister Baulu met Du Jun during her 1998 sabbatical and was excited to bring papercutting here to “bring the peasants’ art to the world and give them the credit that they deserve.” The exhibit had pieces of Zodiac symbols, biblical scenes, and depictions of traditional fairytales.

Du Jun lives in the village of Shanjiagou in the Shaanxi province of China. Du Jun started papercutting when she was six years old. Du Jun attended the Academy of Fine Art and earned a bachelor’s degree in Art Education. She now works as a computer designer and newspaper marketing company in Beijing. She still considers papercutting very important to her life. Du Jun led workshops for children while she was here. Du Jun was the main grandchild of Ping-Ying’s to have the papercutting tradition passed onto her.

Sister Baulu Kuan wrote a book, Zhou Ping-Ying: The Grandmother’s Papercuttings, about Chinese papercutting, focusing on Ping-Ying’s 70 years of work. Papercutting originated in the 3rd century and is very accessible to peasants, as it does not require fancy studios. It is mostly done by women and is passed from generation to generation. Ping-Ying’s work serve different functions, some for weddings, funerals, birthdays, planting and harvesting, and legendary stories. All were very intricate, some symbolic, some poignant, some commemorative, and some for worshiping.

Papercutting helped give peasants who were illiterate a place to express themselves. Red is the prominent color for papercutting since it relates to blood, life, and happiness. All an artist needs are fine scissors, tiny blades, and dyes to create a piece. The New Year is the greatest occasion to display, and windows are perfect for the exhibit.

Grandmother Zhou was born in 1924. She raised six children, but always found time to papercut. She used papercutting to express her dreams and to forget her impoverished life. Du Jun hopes that her grandmother’s work will give a message of simple beauty and delicacy to those who witness it.

Papercutting styles and themes vary widely in different regions of Shaanxi Province. In Shaanbei, the Northern Shaanxi Province, papercutting is forward and expressive. It focuses on animals and legendary stories. In Guanzhong (central Shaanxi) papercutting is specific and humble. Images from the Guanzhong region center around historical heroes and drama (birds and other animals). South of Qin Mountain, papercutting is delicate, precise, and skillful. The Qin-Lin regions focuses on plants, flowers, and fruit. To the west of Guanzhong, papercuttings depict folk tales. Contemporary female papercutters use past artistic trends and even produce new creative stories. They enhance and improve. Shaanxi Province artists have used many traditional and new techniques, such as negative and positive cutting, shadow cutting, color, and color-on-color dabbing. The most popular items get displayed on window frames or lintels of doorways, ceilings, central walls of rooms, and around the walls of the kang (heatable adobe bed). All festivals are decorated with these popular papercuttings of various geometrical patterns.