Paper-cutting is popular across different ethnicities in Xinjiang and Zaorigu Abdukerim, a Uygur woman, has an ardent interest.
As its name suggests, paper-cutting is the art of cutting patterns into colorful paper with scissors or a knife.
Zaorigu is a native of Jinghe County, Xinjiang. Her enthusiasm for paper-cutting began in September, 2013 when an art association was created in the county. When she saw the intricate figures being created, she fell in love with the craft.
Zaorigu applied to join the association straight away. Since then, she has learned how to create exquisite pictures.
Paper-cutting, like many arts and crafts, takes a moment to learn but a lifetime to master. The artist needs a firm hand and a nimble touch. Any hesitation or trembling in the hand creates imperfections that damage the whole image. Zaorigu has devoted many hours to perfecting her craft.
"Paper-cuts are not just a beautiful art, there are stories behind each one," Zaorigu said. She tells these stories to her children as she finishes her pieces.
"Art derives from life, and I want to record the lives of every ethnic group in my country," Zaorigu said. To this end, Zaorigu has spent a considerable amount of time researching on the Internet. Once in a while, she travels to neighboring regions to see different lifestyles with her own eyes.
As more people joined the paper-cutting association, the influence of different cultures and experiences grew.
In one exhibition held by the association, a paper-cut on display depicts "Along the River During the Qingming Festival", or "Qingming Shanghe Tu", a famous painting of daily life in the Northern Song dynasty (960 to 1127 A.D.) in the capital of the time, Bianjing (now named Kaifeng). The painting has a vast number of figures with vivid expressions. The paper cutting version is impossibly intricate.
Zaorigu's work was on show too, her piece is a beautiful Uygur lady brushing her eyebrows. The eyes almost sparkle.
Of all the exhibits, Zaorigu and her fellow members are most proud of the work showcasing the 56 ethnic groups of China. They spent 15 days on it. It was carefully framed and hung in the very center of the exhibition hall.
When Chinese New Year comes, Zaorigu and her friends will make paper-cuts as gifts. In the three months before Spring Festival each year, they make thousands of big red paper characters 'Fu' (Fortune) and send them to people across the county. For Zaorigu, it is a way of spreading fortune and good luck.