Yanchuan Education | Yanchuan County Middle & Primary School Paper-cutting Art Curriculum

Yanchuan County Middle & Primary School Paper-cutting Art Curriculum

Time: 2006 – 2009

Location: Yanchuan County, Northern Shaanxi


Project Description

The Long March Project is a large scale art and cultural project with a strong social mandate.  Since being initiated in 2002, the Long March has continuously been engaged with examining the social possibilities of contemporary Chinese art focusing on the local and the international, and searching for possibilities through which folk culture and art can effectively express and continue its tradition.  Through programming and action that explores the resources and power of art, the Long March works to ensure the continual development of Chinese culture and the idealistic realization of a new cultural and social construction of the countryside. 

Yanchuan County is located to the northeast of the city of Yan’an.  It is comprised of 8 township, 9 districts, and 346 administrative villages.  The total population is approximately 180,000, of which those who engage in farming comprise 144,000.  Total area is 1,941 square kilometers.  Economically, it is a county in western China wracked by poverty.  However, it continues to preserve a complete system of Yellow River folk culture. 

From 2003-2004, after one year of preparation and research and through with the support and consultation of renowned folk culture research Jin Zhilin, the Long March team traveled to Yanchuan County and worked with the county government to conduct a half year investigation entitled, the “Great Survey of Papercuttings in Yanchuan County”, creating a large scale archive of papercuttings for folk art history.  At the same time, through continual promotion and exhibition of the project, the papercuttings of Yanchuan County are already well renowned in 20 countries throughout the world, effectively opening up a door for Chinese folk art internationally, as well as achieving an effective promotion and development for folk art industry in Yanchuan County.

Based upon the results of the 2004 survey, the Long March Project will continue to promote Chinese folk art through the initiation of the Long March Project – Yanchuan County Primary School Papercutting Art Curriculum.  If “The Great Survey of Papercuttings in Yanchuan County” is a large scale investigatory social project, then “The Yanchuan County Primary School Papercutting Art Curriculum” is a pilot art education project whose purpose is to research how ethnic culture and customs are transmitted through the generations, and how folk art can effectively return to people’s everyday lives.  The education initiative is not simply about training to produce a specific papercutting pattern.  Rather it is that these seemingly simple papercutting patterns contain ethnic cultural values.  A myth, a story, they are all linked with Chinese traditional culture.  This transmission is effected through a visual method (papercutting) and passed down to the next generation.  This is an invaluable resource to the future development of Chinese culture.  A concern for the art education of traditional art forms is particularly important in our commercialized and material society.  Through the practice of papercuttings it is possible to teach the long history of Chinese aesthetics, as well as its ethical and social values. 

For these reasons, the Long March Project will carryout the “The Yanchuan County Primary School Papercutting Art Curriculum” Project.  The project will be carried out for three years, from 2006-2009.  A pilot program will be initiated in four to six schools in the region.  Utilizing the powerful culture of papercuttings in Sha’anbei and especially Yanchuan, the Long March will organize a papercutting art curriculum as well as youth activities.  Through training primary school students and youths, and their contact and learning of papercuttings, the project will develop their understanding and interest for traditional culture.  Over the course of these three years, we plan to invite leading folk culture researchers and artists to act as consultants and board members for the project who will annually evaluate and give suggestions regarding the project.  The final curriculum will include: An overall outline for primary school papercutting art curriculum, a set of CD’s for teaching papercuttings, video and photography records of process, and a catalog which will be presented to the National Education Department and the Cultural Ministry for their consultation and use in developing national education policy.  Aside from this, the Long March project will promote this project through exhibition and lectures throughout China and internationally, enabling more people to understand Yanchuan County’s papercutting education policy, the papercuttings of Yanchuan and Yanchuan County. 

June 2006 – Beginning of Dec. 2006  Pre-project survey
Beijing, Xi 'an, Yan 'an, Baoji, Yanchuan

Our team has visited experts, scholars and specialists of folk art education in Central Art Academy, Xi’an Art Academy and immaterial cultural legacy institute of Sha’anxi province and had discussions on the theory implementation and technical improvement. As the discussions and the research we made about the folk art education mode and experience in Yanchuan county and the comprehensive summary as well as the discussions to the region feature of Sha’anbei Folk Art, we have collected the first-hand information to settle down the general module of the art education and textbook for papercutting education. Long March Project team has also observed the lessons schedule, qualification of teachers and facilities in local middle and primary schools; the support from local education and culture department of local government as well as how the local mass and students recognize folk art education.  This basic information will be the key to project implementation.

December 2007  Official Document Issued

We have finished the project discussion with the local government on stage 1. We had received the support from the local government after handing in our project proposal. Notice of the “Papercutting Education in Yanchuan County” project implementation code has been released by the government office as a formal decree (2006) No.95. It addresses the structure, human resource arrangement, location for project implementation and the facilities support of the project and helps to build up a solid foundation from local support.

 The end of Dec.  Discuss the details

Long March Project Team will leave for Yanchuan county to have a further discussion about the detail of implementation with local government.
a. Confirm about the exact school for art education
b. Time schedule as well as the list of trainer and trainee

3 February, 2007. Press Conference
Long March Space, Beijing

Guests presented were representatives of Ford Foundation, Counselor of the State Department, Yanchuan educational Bureau, local project representatives, Yanchuan papercutting experts, folk art scholars, curators and reporters from over thirty media groups. The project was reported on nearly 20 newspaper and websites, which includes China Daily, News weekly and so on.

March – April, 2007

1. Facility building in project schools and establishment of the local project office

Based on the research of previous phase, four project schools were identified. The project team ordered six sets of metal cabinets and has it transported to schools, 1,500 papercutting scissors were also purchased for the training and curriculum implementation. Meanwhile, a local project office was established in Yanchuan.

2. The first teacher’s training at Yanchuan

From March to April, the project team organized a ten days training program. There were 15 teachers from project schools, and 15 local artists and 3 folk art scholars participated in this training. The training consisted of papercutting practice and theoretical lectures. From the preparing and training process in the two month, further knowledge was gained about the local art teaching situation. On the other hand this event was a communication bridge among local artists, educators, and folk art scholars.

3. the first stage of the curriculum building, based in Yanchuan and Beijing
Yanchuan, Beijing

While running he training process in school, the collecting of apercuttings in different levels and subjects for the curriculum building also started, the team also organized the filming of some typical subjects’ papercutting process. This process could not been realized without the support of many local artists.

Back from Yanchuan, the editing of the draft curriculum and the film started in Beijing. Meetings were hold with project adversary board members discussing the draft curriculum, which consists of 21 volumes. The film editing also started.

August – September, 2007

1. The Long March Director of International Programs and Curator Zoe Butt visits Xi’ an, Yanchuan and Yan’an. Beginnign of the media work.
Xi'an, Yanchuan, Yan'an

Zoe Butt visited the three cities during August – September, she had meetings with the Sha’anxi Immaterial Cultural Heritage Institute officers and Xi’an Art Academy folk art researchers, as well as folk artists. The visiting enabled the project communicating with likewise projects on the international context. The project received interests from Japan folk art researchers lately.

2. Visite Chen Shanqiao — the curriculum and textbook writer

Mr. Chen Shanqiao is the director of the Sha’anxi Immaterial Cultural Heritage Institute, he has comprehensive and systematic research background in Sha’anbei folk art, and he is also a member of the Project Advisory Board. The project team presented the 21 volumes of draft curriculum to him and commissioned him to do a systematic and suitable curriculum for primary schools’ teaching. The manuscript of the curriculum was finished in November by Chen Shanqiao.

November – December 2007

1. The composing of the curriculum into textbooks

During November, the project team worked closely with Mr. Chen and two local artists in developing the manuscript curriculum into textbooks. The curriculum covered three grades in primary school education; the contents were categorized into three major subjects of traditional papercuttings, which are flowers and plants (Second grade), animals (Third grade) and human figures (Fourth grade). The artists provided papercuttings for each lesson, and the papercutting process was filmed, which will be edited produced as educational DVD series accompany with the textbooks.

2. Collecting feedbacks from Yanchuan educators and teachers about the new textbooks

In the beginning of December, the project team visited Yanchuan with the draft textbooks. The teachers and educators offered their opinions on the textbooks as well as the coming teaching in next spring, the feedbacks collected were evidence of improving the textbooks before its production in the end of December 2007. The attached pictures here are a designer’s draft. In the beginning of next year, another round of teachers training will be organized and the textbook will enter classroom for teaching from March 2008.

January 2008  The primary school art textbooks and their accompanying DVDs are finished

Click here to check the related publications: Textbooks of Folk Paper-cutting Art  in Shaanxi Province

Sample pages from the textbook:

March 2008   Primary school paper-cutting textbooks came into the classroom and the Phase II teacher training

The curriculum is set to start in the 4 pilot primary schools in March 2008.  Following its implementation, the Long March team will continue to work closely with the schools, teachers and local artists, in order to continue revising the curriculum, and to focus on developing and strengthening the sustainability of the project.  Thorough documentation of the project will be presented to the National Educational Department and the Cultural Ministry of China for their use in developing national education policy.   The documentation also forms a visual display, which will be exhibited and displayed.


April 2008. Invited to participate in the UNPACK exhibition

Location: Hangzhou

The project was invited to participate in the China Academy of Art’s 80th anniversary exhibition “Five Grains and other Cereals|UNPACK: An Exhibition of Chinese Experimental Art Education and Creation”


On 24 March 2008 in Hangzhou, to celebrate the 80th anniversary of the founding of the China Academy of Fine Art, fifteen exceptional teaching cases from around China were exhibited at the Academy’s newly completed Xiangshan Art Museum.  “Long March Project: Yanchuan Primary School Papercutting Art Education Project” was the only exceptional educational plan initiated by a folk-art institution that was invited to participate. It laid bare the differences between the top-down teaching modalities of the academy system and the sort of self-referential cultural consciousness grown out of a specific locality, to which the methods and operations of contemporary art have been added, its experimentality and transient position making it an important standalone example in the exhibition.