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Dai people's life shown in vivid paper-cuttings

Updated:2020-02-26 18:00:52   Yunnan Gateway

The paper cutting of the Dai ethnic group originates from ancient rituals, where unique patterns are cut on the paper with scissors. Through evolution in history, it has become an art of defining ethnic features.

In Dehong Dai and Jingpo Autonomous Prefecture, southwest Yunnan Province, Shao Meihan, a Dai woman, has excellent paper-cutting skills. Wielding a pair of scissors, she can create fine peacock-shaped patterns, so locals call her the "Master of Dai Paper-cutting".

Though entitled as "inheritor of cultural heritage" and "paper-cutting artist", Shao Meihan prefers to call herself "one who knows how to cut paper". Shao was born in Fengping Town of the Mang city, prefectural seat of Dehong, where most women can do paper-cutting. Under their influence, Shao took up paper-cutting in 1981, when she was 15 years old. Back then, she just did it for fun, imitating her grandma and mother willingly. 

Shao Meihan was quite committed to paper cutting. Even when she was laboring in the field, Shao tried to keep in mind the farming scenes so as to create original works back to home. Day after day, Shao gained a sense of fulfillment in paper cutting, with her vivid works winning praise from more people.

Years later, Shao's paper-cutting skills approached maturity, and she tried to present the moods or facial expression people and animals in her works. With a pair of scissors, she is especially good at creating the slim figure of the Dai girls with sweet smiles: some carrying water, some farming, while others dancing... In the pretty images, we can see the happy life of local Dai folks.

In 2010, Shao was invited to teach paper-cutting at Yunnan Minzu University and Yunnan Arts University, where her Dai-style paper works were like by most students. Driven by the success in teaching, Shao decided to further popularize the Dai art. Back in Mangshi, she began to pass paper-cutting to the neighbors’ children in her free time. 

Shao Meihan even set up a Dai paper-cutting museum in 2014, the first of its kind by a Dai farmer in China. There, most of Shao’s excellent paper-cutting works are displayed, and lovers of the Dai folklore gather to learn from each other. 

Over the past 39 years, Shao has created lively paper-cuttings with her scissors. Thanks to her devotion, Buddha statues, banyan trees, flowers, birds, fish, elephants, peacocks, and even daily activities are all enlivened. Wielding a pair of scissors on pieces of red paper, Shao has allowed more to fall in love with the refined Dai paper cutting.

Reporting by Yang Xiujie (Yunnan Culture & Tourism Times); online photos 

Keywords:   Dai people paper-cuttings