Paper-tearing artist in NW China honors tradition in innovative way

An octogenarian in northwest China's Xi'an has created a variety of folklore artworks through tearing and splicing paper.

The designs are created without the use of ink or brushes that are necessary in ordinary painting or drawing. Li Yunzheng, 80, has devoted half of his life to this craft. Li's works feature bright colors and simple yet intriguing styles. He has been obsessed with art since his 20s. 

"I would take my notebook to go outside for sketch lessons every night. The clubs and labor unions used to hold a lot of cultural activities at that time," Li said. 

Li's passion for art went through a transition from oil painting to paper-tearing. He is inspired by the landscape and folk customs of the places he set foot in across the province. 

After a lot of research, Li has made a large scroll to show the characteristics of Xi'an during the Republic of China (1912-1949) period. The work completed in three years has brought many landmark buildings, historical events and scenes of ordinary life in the old city back to life through vivid details. 

"The things from the Republic of China (1912-1949) period are no longer in existence now. I need to rely on my experience and art accumulation [to restore them]," Li said. "I need to refine some things in life and express them in my own words. Therefore, I have to contemplate for a long time. Sometimes I can't figure it out even after one or two months."

Li is still innovating his techniques to use materials like silk.