According to its raw materials and making methods, the Foshan paper-cuts are divided into copper lining, paper lining, copper writing, silver writing, woodcut, copper chiseling, and solid color etc. The local copper foil and silver foil are used with cutting, carving and chiseling techniques, lined with various color paper and printed with various patterns to create the paper-cuts with southern styles. Foshan paper-cuts have both delicate and bold expression means, and different materials are selected according to different demands.
In ancient times, the paper-cuts were mainly used for festival gifts decoration, sacrificing decoration, embroidery carving patterns, and product trademarks etc. With develoment of the society, Foshan paper-cuts have created a path of renovation on the traditional arts with strict picture composition, strong decorating ability, elegance and splendidness to reflect the modern living topics. Foshan paper-cut is typical in China paper-cut arats.
Foshan paper-cut has a long history. It already became commodity as early as in Song Dynasty and Yuan Dynasty, and was prosperous in Qianlong Period of Qing Dynasty. Foshan paper-cut is divided into cutting and carving in making. Paper carving is based on the folkway paper-cut, arising according to the commodity production and the demand of the common people. The paper carving utilizes the special Foshan local products of copper foil and color paper, with the local styles of rich colors and bold spirit.
In making methods, there are lining material carving paper, writing material carving paper and solid color paper-cut. The copper lining material, copper painting material and copper carving material are most typical.
The copper lining material is for the cutting knife to carve picture lines and structure on the copper foil, which is lined with color paper according to the demand of design. The copper writing material is for the combination of painting and paper-cut, first carving the outline on the copper foil with cutting knife before painting with color foundation mixed with glue. The copper carving material is nearly the same with the copper writing material, where the picture or figure outline is chiseled out with special chisel, with the outline like a chain of pearls that are not connected but paintedwith powder colors.
Most of the subjects of Foshan paper-cuts are favorable to the laboring people, including the flowers, birds, fishes and animals that symbolize luck, and the favorite opera figures and folk stories, such as "dragon", "pheonix", "carp", "peacock, "fruits", "fortune and longevity", "Hehe Immortals", "Prime Minister of Six States", "Tang Ming Emperor Visiting Yue Palace", "Change Flying To Moon", "Eight Immortals Quarreling in East Sea", and "Dragon Boat Race" etc. The copper carving materials mainly have the colors of pink, rose color, blue and red-white, harmonious and striking. The lining colors of copper lining materials are mainly the orange, pink, auramine, mustard yellow, purple, deep green and Cambridge blue, with pictures striking and harmonious.
Foshan paper-cut has an important position in the local customs. In festivals, wedding, funeral, birthday celebration, sacrifice, intercommunication and daily articles and children toys, the paper-cuts are used for decoration. For example, in Spring Festival, the doorhead of each family is pasted with a horizontal scroll bearing an inscription of "Five Fortunes On Door", below which are pasted five copper lining characters of "Fortune" in the shape of coin. The "Gold Flowers" are sacrificed to Heavenly God, ancestors, door-keeping god, land god, stove god and well god. In the past, there was a trade of Gold Flower in Foshan that enjoyed good business. The gold flower for the Heavenly God has two layers or three layers, with a copper caring material paper-cut on each layer, with a wood in the center. The lower layer is bigger and the upper layer is smaller. The gold flower is decorated with bobbles, very striking. The patters include gold gourd top and lotus seed bottom, with left and right wealth inviting boys. The gold flowers for other familiy gods are nearly the same, with the middle size for the ancestors, small size for other gods, which are of one or two layers. The gift boxes and gifts for wedding and celebrations are all pasted with paper-cut. On the the seventh evening of the seventh moon, women will use the paper-cuts to decorate the fruit plates, incense burner tables, candlesholders and the bowels for carrying the articles for sacrifice. The girls will use the paper-cuts to decorate the white gourd lanterns, sesamoid boats and pomelo and various figure bindings. Usually the paper-cuts used on the Qiqiao Festival are one of the items for the girls to contest their handcraft. The fireworks are decorated with paper-cuts, and the tobacco bags, tea baskets (for carrying teapot), rice jars and glass boxes are mostly decorated with paper-cut.
In addition, most of the paper-cuts areused on the articles for sacrifice. According to Foshan customs, for funeral sacrifice, seven "Qi" shall be offered, and a lot of sacrifice articles shall be burned for each "Qi", especially for the "Third Qi". The sacrifice articles for burning include the "gold hill", "silver hill", "gold bridge", "silver bridge", "house" and "furnishings" inside the "house" and "clothes" and "shoes "etc. All these peper articles are pasted with paper-cuts. For example, paper-cuts are pasted on the cabinet surfacne and corners. Even the handkerchief is pasted with paper-cut as pattern.
The colorful folkway customs in Foshan have promoted development of paper-cut, and the development of paper-cut arts contribute to more local features of Foshan folkway customs.