Fan Pu, a Christian Paper-cutting Artist

A paper cut of fishers of men
A paper cut of fishers of men
By Josiah LiMay 28th, 2024

A large edition of the Bible was open on a plain dining table in the living room, and on the table was also a book about the explanation of the Book of Revelation published by the local CC&TSPM. The two books now feature prominently in the life of Fan Pu, a Christian paper-cutting artist, who is using them to help create a series of paper cuts according to the Book of Revelation.

Recently, we visited Mrs. Fan Pu at her residence. When we entered her room, we saw the open Bible on the table, as she was reading it.

Mrs. Fan, 77 years old, first shared her recent life. Because of her old age, her health is not what it used to be, and she spends most of the day at home. Her biggest hope at present is to complete the series of paper-cuts of Revelation. She has spent a year conceiving and drawing, and it is expected that the whole project will take two or three years. She can only work a few hours a day because of her poor eyesight and declining strength. At the peak of her creation, she could work more than 10 hours a day, and she often worked until midnight.

In addition to the Revelation series of works being created, Mrs. Fan has also previously produced a series of paper-cut works of the entire volume of books in the Bible, such as the Book of Isaiah, Psalms, and Acts of the Apostles, among which there are 84 works for the Book of Acts and nearly 200 works for the series of Psalms. Mrs. Fan not only works according to the content of the Bible, she also works with the themes of Christmas, the Life and Lesson of Jesus, and the Stations of the Cross, among which the Life and Lesson of Jesus series includes a total of 153 works. In addition, she has works based on individual Bible stories and Bible verses.

The works about Bible verses combine the characters with the corresponding verses, which have been affirmed by the famous Christian calligrapher and painter Zhang Xinzheng. Mrs. Fan quoted Mr. Zhang's evaluation of her in her book The Journey of the Heart: Paper-Cutting Art of Fan Pu, “In addition to the characteristics of adopting special Bible scripture themes, your paper-cutting art has unique characteristics and originality, that is, multiple characters and calligraphy. Your multi-word paper cut is also one of the major breakthroughs in paper-cut art. Not only that, the use of traditional calligraphy art is also a breakthrough.”

In the process of using paper cutting, one of the Chinese folk arts, to express Christianity, Mrs. Fan has been trying to combine Christianity with Chinese culture. She said, “The essence of localization is the incarnation. Only when the seeds of life enter this soil can they grow, blossom, and bear fruit. The same seeds grow differently in different soil environments, but the essence of life is the same.” She began her work by using Chinese characters and costumes, adding Chinese elements such as tai chi patterns to some of her works, and later adopted a Christian perspective to illustrate classic phrases from ancient books such as the Analects of Confucius and the Songs of Chu.

The number of Mrs. Fan's Christian paper-cut works has passed thousands, the vast majority of which she created in her spare time and after retirement, and the reason why she is able to achieve so much is because she regards it as God's calling and her mission. Mrs. Fan admitted that most of the people engaged in paper-cutting art in China are quite poor, and few people are willing to learn about it now, because it is difficult for them to support their families with this craft. She has run training courses, but there are only a few people who come to learn, and none of them can stick to them. Looking back on her creation process, she attributes all the glory to God. "God is in charge of my future. I am only a vessel, a knife or scissors in his hand."

Although she is now worn out with age, Mrs. Fan said that she firmly believes that the Book of Revelation series can be completed, because the brothers and sisters are praying for her, and this is the mission given to her by God.

- Translated by Nicolas Cao

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