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Reinventing Chinese TraditionThe Cultural Politics of Late Socialism$
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Ka-ming Wu

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780252039881

Published to Illinois Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.5406/illinois/9780252039881.001.0001

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Paper-Cuts in Modern China

Paper-Cuts in Modern China

The Search for Modernity, Cultural Tradition, and Women’s Liberation

(p.31) Chapter 1 Paper-Cuts in Modern China
Reinventing Chinese Tradition

Ka-ming Wu

University of Illinois Press

This chapter examines how folk paper-cuts have served as a site of intellectual expressions and debates about the meanings of—and the entangled relationships between—culture, gender, history, and the state in modern China. It first takes up the question of folk traditions, gender, and modernity before discussing the practice of paper-cutting in the Yan'an period (1937–1947) and in the late 1970s. It then considers how gender figures in the narrative of the folk cultural form of paper-cuts in Yan'an and its later deployment by urban intellectuals in various nationalist campaigns. In particular, it looks at women paper-cutting artists in contemporary Ansai County and describes how folk paper-cuts have become that “site of awkward engagement” where the agenda of the state, global capital regimes of values, and local tradition forces interacted with each other. The chapter suggests that, through the representation of paper-cuts, the binary oppositions of gender and rural–urban divide have become part of the meanings of Chinese modernity itself.

Keywords:   paper-cuts, gender, China, folk tradition, modernity, paper-cutting, Yan'an, urban intellectuals, paper-cutting artists, rural–urban divide

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