Thursday, 19 June 2008

Happiness of the Eyebrows!

I've just spent the last 5 days in rainy Shanghai and while rummaging for paper cuts (didn't find any)I found an interesting book in English. So now I can let you in on some of the meanings behind some popular traditional Chinese paper cuts.

Before you read the explanations look carefully at the paper cuts and see what you read into them.

This one is A Snake Circling a Rabbit. I initially thought this was all about danger, fear and the inevitably of death… How wrong I was!

The description for this one is long but in a nutshell it describes peasant families trying to marry off their sons early. To marry off a 15 or 16 yr old son meant finding a mature wife 2 years older who could look after her husband well. A girl born in the year of the rabbit is older than a boy born in the year of the snake. Hence the saying, “If a snake circles a rabbit the family will surely be rich.” Therefore, making a paper cut in the shape of a snake circling a rabbit to paste in the bridal chamber speaks louder than words.

What do you make of this one?


This one has the brilliant title of ‘Happiness on the Eyebrows’. The description says – ‘The two eyebrows of the person are cut into a pair of flying magpies as are the arms, which add a festive atmosphere to it. The key point is that it is a masculine symbol. Under his crotch lie lotus flowers which symbolize a female. As a whole, it is a picture depicting copulation between a man and a woman. The guava and lotus flowers have the meaning of giving birth to a child.’

2 comments:

Gillian said...

Thanks for sharing those interesting symbols, Tim. They are very beautiful, especially the 2nd one. It just goes to show that you can never really guess the meanings without a great deal of knowledge.

Tim Budden said...

Gillian, Yes, you're right, but I enjoy the mystery of not knowing the true meanings and having to come up with my own.
When I see these paper cuts that involve animals I am always reminded of Chagall's paintings as they too invoke folklore.