The lunar new year kicked off on 1st February. Whilst we celebrated the solar new year a month ago, many people in China and South East Asia follow a more traditional lunar calendar and the lunar year has only just come to a close on 31st January.
Every new year introduces another animal from the Chinese zodiac and its attributes, this system is believed to have begun in a period when animal worship was widely practiced in China. Many people in China use it to determine their fortune for the year and even who they should marry, and 2022 is the year of the Tiger.
The new year celebrations last for sixteen days, ending with the lantern festival where people make traditional lanterns and light them. Art is an important part of Chinese heritage and culture and China has excelled in all forms of art for several centuries.
We think this is a great time to celebrate with friends and make some decorations and gifts. So this week we have some ideas for you surrounding some traditional Chinese crafts.
Chinese Art Of Paper Folding
Chinese paper folding or Zhezhi originated in medieval China. Origami, which you may have heard of, originated in Japan but paper folding was also popular in China and concentrates mainly on objects such as boats and hats rather than the animals and flowers of Japanese origami. Modular folding often uses Chinese paper money; triangles are folded from multiple pieces of paper and connected by inserting a flap of one triangle into a pocket on the next.
In ancient China, lanterns were used to provide light and as aspects of worship. Today, they are used only for decoration and as modern forms of celebration and worship. Lanterns have become a symbol of national pride in China and are used to decorate homes and public places. They also come in many different shapes, including cubes, cuboids, and cylinders.
In Chinese culture, the colours of lanterns express different meanings and are used for different occasions:
Red - Symbolises wealth, fame, and prosperity. Used to celebrate occasions of joy and harmony, such as weddings, opening a business, family reunions, as well as the celebration of some festivals.
Yellow - It is said that yellow lanterns can bring good luck to young students in school.
White - White is related to death or funerals. So, white bamboo lanterns were often used at funerals in China.
Green - Often seen during temple fairs or the Lantern Festival. Represents health, prosperity, and harmony.
The Lantern Festival is one of the best days to view Chinese lanterns. The custom of viewing lantern displays on the evening of the Lantern Festival has a history of almost 2,000 years.
Wax printing, also known as batik, is one of the three ancient Chinese handicraft methods of producing dyed, multi-colored textiles via a process which prevents the dye from reaching parts of the fabric. Hot melted wax is applied to the fabric, often in the form of a geometric pattern, then when the wax has dried, the fabric is placed in a cold-water bucket of dye. When the dyeing process is finished and the fabric has been allowed to dry completely, the fabric is then washed in hot water, which dissolves the wax, and the finished product is a piece of fabric with patterns or designs, in a contrasting colour to the dyed, or background, colour.
Chinese Paper Cutting
The art of paper cutting in China dates back to the 2nd century CE. 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.
Because the designs are often used to decorate doors and windows, they are sometimes referred to as "window flowers" or "window paper-cuts". These decorations are often glued to the exterior of windows, so the light from the inside shines through them. Usually, the artworks are made of red paper, as red is associated with festivities and happiness in Chinese culture, but other colours are also used. Normally cut-paper artwork is used on festivals such as Chinese New Year and symbolises luck and happiness.
Paper-cutting is one of the oldest and the most popular folk arts in China, they liven up windows, doors, mirrors, lamps and are also used on presents or are given as gifts. Paper cut-outs pasted on or near entrances are supposed to bring good luck and can also be popular on the lunar new year.
The kite is believed to have originated in China. In ancient times, Chinese kites would have been made simply from wood and cloth and were often made to resemble the shapes of birds. Today, elaborate and large designs can be seen and will often resemble real animals and members of the Chinese Zodiac. Some kites will have LED lights attached to allow for night flights and fun light shows. Chinese kites usually represent mythological characters, symbolic creatures, as well as legendary figures. Some have whistles or strings designed to make sounds while flying.
Paper workshops at MY.O
Why not sign up to one of our paper flower workshops to give paper craft a go? The flowers are made out of crepe paper which is satifying to work with. The end result is a lovely bouquet of everlasting, blooming flowers! Perfect for Mother's Day :)