Daur paper cuts

The traditional-style of Hanêka: the beloved paper dolls of Daur girls

Updated: Dec 9, 2019 Print
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The traditional-style Hanêka

Meaning “pupil” in the Daur language and implying “pocket people in the eyes”, Hanêka are paper dolls measuring between 10-15 centimeters that are beloved by little Daur girls, its birch bark culture and skin-cut craft preceding the introduction of paper. Moreover, it is speculated that the formation of Hanêka is related to Shamanism, the religion Daur adopted at early period, which usually involved having the images of its gods cut out for worship and other rituals.

Hanêka in tradition style [Photo provided by Su Mei]

Most Daur girls learn making Hanêka from their mothers in childhood. Together with peers, they love playing role-play games with the paper dolls using self-made props, basing their games on Daur daily activities such as farming, fishing, visiting relatives, and weddings. Therefore, to some extent the etiquette and morality of Daur people are imperceptibly integrated into Hanêka and they are thus sometimes used for childhood education.

In general, a traditional Hanêka has a simple and elegant style. The main body is a cone-shaped figure folded with colored paper, while the head is a silhouette made of unadorned white paper without any facial features. Some decorations are necessary, including collars, accessories and auspicious patterns cut out of colored paper and attached with glue.

Headwear plays an important role as they give away important “personal information” about the dolls: “children” keep braids on the tops of their heads; “men” wear ingot-shaped hats; “maids” have buns on both sides of their heads or a long braid; the headgears of “married women” are exaggeratedly designed, usually in the shape of paired phoenixes, butterflies and flying birds; “old women” keep high buns with hairpins. Each is a vivid reflection of traditional Duar dressing customs.

A traditional Hanêka family set [Photo provided by Su Mei]
A traditional Hanêka family set [Photo by provided by Su Mei]

For a traditional way of making Hanêka, all you need is a pair of scissors, a bottle of glue, colored paper and a small thin stick. First of all you fold the paper in half then cut out the head part, including the neck, face, ears and headgear. Next you should fold another piece of paper into a cone and cut out a bit of its top to make the body. After sticking the head on the stick, you can insert it into the body and glue on the decorations you like. Expand the bottom of the body and stand it up and congratulations, you have made your own traditional-style Hanêka.

Semi-finished Hanêkas with tools and materials [Photo provided by Su Mei]




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