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August 17, 2009

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Artist proves to be a cut above the rest

CAI Defu sat on his bed, took his sharp scissors out and quickly started cutting a piece of red paper. Two minutes later he held up a pair of lively Chinese dragons.

Cai has won a series of awards for his skill in the craft including a national-level Top Award in Chinese Paper Cutting.

The 58-year-old's master-piece "Baijutu," a picture of more than 100 chrysanthemums, took three years to finish and is now on display in Zhang Yuanji Museum in Jiaxing, Zhejiang Province.

The full-time artist now gives a paper-cutting show at the Westin Hotel in Shanghai on weekdays from 4pm to 6pm. He usually cuts out Chinese characters or the 12 animals of the Chinese zodiac.

"British Prime Minister Gordon Brown once came to the hotel and saw my performance," Cai says. "He told me he was very impressed with my skill and that he loved traditional Chinese art."

The artist's love for his craft started in elementary school when he became fascinated by the lively animals and strange symbols created on pieces of red paper with only scissors and knives.

Cai learned on his own as he regarded it as a hobby at that time.

"Paper cutting is an easy field to enter, but it takes a long time to become a master," Cai says. "At first I could only copy very simple geometric figures, but gradually I learned to create complicated abstract paintings."

Cai decided to take paper cutting a career in his 20s - a time when most of his peers worked in factories.

"There were very few full-time artists like me at that time because a folk artist couldn't earn much," he says.

The artist says he doesn't care about money, but that he is worried about passing the craft on to the next generation. He wants to modernize paper cutting so that more young people like it.


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