Shanxi Evergreen Service exists to assist Shanxi and other Chinese provinces by developing public benefit services for the common people, continuing the good works of Ye Yongqing (Leaf Evergreen, i.e., Peter Torjesen), acknowledging God’s gracious calling in our lives, and reflecting the credibility of Christ. For more information about Evergreen, click here.
Evergreen Cards is a rural economic development project that was founded by Evergreen team members to provide women with a source of supplemental income and to touch their lives in a tangible way with the love of God.
Invited into Shanxi Province by the local government to help with social and economic development, Evergreen’s focus has always been to investigate what the most significant needs are in the communities where we live and then find the most locally-appropriate means through which we can respond to each.
History and Description of the Project
Shanxi Evergreen Service developed this hand-cut card project in 2004 primarily to serve families living in rural village areas of Yangqu County in Shanxi Province, China, where the average annual per capita income is still currently less than US $400.
For an investment of less than US $8 (to buy a knife, wax board, and sharpening stone) and in just a few weeks’ time, a woman can be trained to learn the skill of paper cutting and significantly improve her family’s economic situation.
Since being legally registered in China as a WOFE (Wholly-Owned Foreign Enterprise) in 2006, Evergreen Cards Ltd. has trained more than 100 women how to cut cards. Currently, approximately 30 women actively work with Evergreen Cards.
Additionally, profits generated from the sale of these cards are also used to assist other low-income families through Evergreen’s Scholarship and RED (Regional Educational Development) programs.
The Chinese Art of Paper Cutting
Paper cutting is one of China’s most traditional folk arts. Archaeological finds have traced it back to the 6th century, but others would argue that it can be associated with the development of paper in China several centuries earlier. Paper cutting has traditionally been done by women and girls. This was originally a skill that girls were expected to master and was used to judge their worthiness as brides. Professional paper cutters, however, were almost always men who had guaranteed incomes and worked together in workshops.
Paper cuts are produced by hand, either with scissors or engraving knives. Several layers of thin tissue-like paper are put together, then folded. They are then cut into various designs with very small-pointed scissors. In knife cutting, the artisan puts several layers of paper on a wax board made of tallow and ash or beeswax. The knife is held vertically, and following a pattern, the artist cuts the design into the paper.
Paper-cut designs are typically centered around Chinese folk motifs such as the twelve animals of the lunar calendar: the rat, ox, tiger, rabbit, dragon, snake, horse, sheep, monkey, rooster, dog, and boar. Other common figures include Chinese characters, flowers, plants, animals, birds, butterflies, etc.
Today, paper cuttings are used primarily as decorations on windows, walls, doors, etc. They can be seen decorating the homes of newlywed couples, to celebrate the birth of a child, or to welcome in the Chinese New Year.
A Christian paper-cut artist, whose works have been internationally exhibited, personally trained Evergreen’s first class of paper cutters. Though most of our new card designs are developed in-house, we have also been privileged to incorporate a number of her Biblically-themed designs into our cards.
Evergreen Cards is overseen by an Evergreen team member with experience in marketing, business management, and economic development. Day-to-day operational management is handled by a local on-site manager with bookkeeping and accounting assistance provided by several other part-time local staff.