Sang Liangshu was once a typical Chinese housewife. That was before being inspired by her family's intense interest in art. She created a unique paper-cut art, which she called "Xiao Sang Paper-cut." Her style of paper-cut preserves traditional Chinese characteristics, and utilizes the best features of other fine arts. Sang's daring and creative paper-cuts have earned her fame.
Xiao Sang at work
The First Touch of Paper-cut
Sang Liangshu is no longer a typical Chinese housewife. Why? She has become Xiao Sang - renowned paper-cut artist. Sang lives with her family in Hongya County, best known as southwestern Sichuan Province's "Green Pearl." Her husband is a retired Culture Museum worker and her daughter is a student at the Sichuan Academy of Fine Arts. Nobody should be surprised – given her family's love of art – that Sang became an artist. Sang created "Xiao Sang Paper-cut."
Xiao Sang was a dutiful wife, and cared for her family. Her mother eventually moved in with the family. The four survived on Qiu's meager income – 700 yuan a month. Xiao Sang made due, and felt satisfied and happy. She tended each night to her husband, drawing in the living room, and her studious daughter. Her life was a simple routine – until that fateful day.
She picked up a pair of scissors and a piece of paper one day out of the blue, and made a paper-cut from a pattern she had found days before. Her husband was impressed by her talent, and encouraged her to practice. He sketched various motifs for her. She hasn't stopped since. She made paper-cuts every night. Sang does not know how many knives and pairs of scissors she has worn out over the years. Her paper-cuts became more attractive, and friends and family wanted some of the creations. Sang started winning art competitions. That peaked her interest.
Beauty in an ancient costume
Characteristics of "Xiao Sang Paper-cut"
"Xiao Sang Paper-cut" preserves the Chinese folk art traditions, and utilizes the best features of modern art. She uses only the best paper – "Ya Paper," handmade in her hometown. Xiao Sang uses "Ya Paper", a kind of handmade paper produced in her hometown. The paper is white, pliable and tender and can be dip-dyed. It is durable, and doesn't fade quickly.
Sang focuses on unifying symbols, creating two-dimensional artistic concepts and integrating colors by dipping, dyeing and splashing the paper. She utilizes the technique known as soakage, and adopts modern Western design concepts. She uses watercolor techniques to enhance brightness, and black and white styles for contrast. She also perfectly uses the scissor-and-paper technique – which includes lines of crescent, sawtooth and other basic delineations – to enhance the artistic vitality of her works.
The objective of Chinese folk paper-cuts is to emphasize beauty and goodness in people's consciousness, not reality captured by photographs. Paper-cutting demands freedom, audacity and simpleness -- without decoration -- to represent a part of daily life or a piece of folk custom. "Xiao Sang Paper-cut" highlights and perfects original paper-cut art by integrating it with other techniques and art forms. Paper-cutting, like traditional Chinese painting, utilizes beautiful forms to represent an artist's spiritual world. That widens the scope of subjects.
Xiao Sang Paper-cuts involve a wide range of motifs -- from cultural relics to figures, and from folklore to literature. That has helped introduce China's paper-cuts to the world. Chinese folk paper-cuts, in which images are exaggerated, maintain an expression of undistorted consciousness. Such visual exaggeration typifies the Chinese spirit of optimism and humor, and represents working people's wisdom and intelligence. "Xiao Sang Paper-cut" can also be called "Artistic Paper-cut," because "art" is the core of her creations. Xiao Sang believes paper-cuts must be artisitc if they are to endure, enlighten and be appreciated.
"Xiao Sang Paper-cut" is rooted in traditional Chinese art. It maintains Chinese style – truth, goodness and beauty – regardless of how much the technique differs from traditional folk paper-cuts.
Chubby child with fish in her hand symbolizes the harvest
Achievements of "Xiao Sang Paper-cut"
"Xiao Sang Paper-cut" has won silver prizes twice -- at "99 China Paper-cut Exhibition" and "China Folk Paper-cut Contest 2001." Celebrities throughout the world have also recognized the paper-cut. An article entitled "Paper-cut with Buddhist Features" in Sichuan Today praised "Xiao Sang Paper-cut." The article suggested the paper-cut had "reached a very high level in philosophy and art." Zhang Fenggao, chairman of the China Folk Paper-cut Research Society and professor of Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, has said Xiao Sang's works are "rich with literary connotation." International Paper-cut and Modern Chinese Paper-cut chose Xiao Sang's works for their colored covers.