Celebrating the Year of Dragon: Shenyang Intangible Cultural Heritage Inheritor Creates Exquisite Pleated Paper Dragon

As the Year of Dragon in Chinese lunar calendar is approaching, the dragon-themed artworks created by Li Xue, the inheritor of the Li’s traditional paper pleating of Shenyang outshined other artworks in various exhibitions. These pleated paper works with unique features are in vivid shapes, such as a golden flying dragon, an emerald jade pig-shaped dragon and colorful dragons with extendible bodies.

Intrigued by these delicate pleated paper dragons, a host of teenagers gathered at the booth of pleated paper of the Liaoning’s Intangible Cultural Heritage Exhibition for the Chinese New Year Celebration. Looking at the masterpieces curiously, they lost themselves in playing with the little paper-made emerald jade pig-shaped dragon as they listened to Li Xue’s introduction of the production techniques and styling characteristics of these pleated paper dragons.  

A huge pleated paper emerald jade pig-shaped dragon with the height exceeding one meter is displayed at the center of the Yaji Art Space in Liaoning Provincial Museum, attracting people’s attention. To usher in the Year of Dragon, Li Xue spent one month on finishing this creation, whose prototype, the white jade pig-shaped dragon is collected in the Liaoning Provincial Museum. After viewing the jade pig-shaped dragon in the museum, people naturally take photos of the exquisite paper-made one displayed in the Yaji Art Space.

Creating works of pleated paper with a unique artistic charm is a challenging task. It still took Li Xue many years of study and practice to develop her own characteristic art of pleated paper after inheriting traditional techniques from her family. To create pleated paper-made works, the first step is to create evenly spaced and wide pleats on a flat sheet of paper. Secondly, using the force of your wrist to create a desired curvature, which then can be utilized to form different shapes of handicrafts. Lastly, assembling all the spare parts with glue. This technique gives the paper works a strong three-dimensional sense and a distinctive aesthetic value. Born in a family skilled in paper arts, Li Xue has been influenced by her family members since she was a little girl, and soon gained a good command of pleated paper’s techniques. Subsequently, Li Xue studied in Singapore to learn art and design and extensively absorbed the essence of domestic and foreign paper arts, developing her own unique style. The production of the Li’s folk pleated paper includes six steps, namely material-selecting, paper-cutting, pleat pinching, shaping, gluing and assembling. To refine her skills, Li Xue spends the entire day sitting in a chair, practicing this craft. Art works made by Li Xue with the narrowest pleat less than one centimeter, yet even and delicate, demonstrate a brilliant world of paper arts through distinctive style and rich imagination.

Moreover, Li Xue kept on innovating on the basis of traditional techniques to explore the depth, breadth and the infinite charisma of paper arts. Recently, she created an exquisite golden relief dragon with innovative skills, which is to embed pleated scales layer by layer in the body made by paper pleating technique. Additionally, Li Xue has been invited to the Sino-Russian Folk Art Exchange Activities held in Russia, where she will present her representative works during the Spring Festival.

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