Hu Jiazhi
Hu Jiazhi
Hu Jiazhi (at right) on her 113th birthday.
Birth: 25 February 1897
Hangzhou, Zhejiang, Qing dynasty (now China)
Death: 23 March 2010
Nanjing, Jiangsu, China
Age: 113 years, 26 days
Country: ChinaCHN

Hu Jiazhi [Chinese: 胡家芝] (25 February 1897 – 23 March 2010) was a Chinese supercentenarian whose age is currently unvalidated by the Gerontology Research Group.


Early Life

Hu Jiazhi claimed to be born on 25 February 1897 in Tonglu county, Hangzhou, Zhejiang, Qing dynasty (now China). Her father, Hu Chantai [Chinese: 胡传泰], was a famous calligrapher; her uncle was a flower and bird painter; and her cousin Ye Qianyu [Chinese: 叶浅予] was a famous Chinese cartoon dessinator .

Jiazhi received a strict and traditional education, being intelligent, studious and ingenious. At the age of 7 or 8, Jiazhi fell in love with papercutting. She went to a private school when she was young. Then she studied at Tonglu's Girl's School n°1 [Chinese: 桐庐第一女子学校], where she had good marks and received some advices of a craft teacher from Hangzhou.

Jiazhi married at age 20 in Zhushan village, Jiangnan town, in Tonglu county. She had 5 children (3 sons and 2 daughters), the oldest being her son Zhenzao Yuan [Chinese: 袁振藻] (aged 90 in 2010, a retired professor) and the youngest being her daughter Zhenhong Yuan [Chinese: 袁振洪] (aged 72 and living in Suzhou as of 2010). She lived for 36 years in Zhushan, where the villagers surnamed her the "pair of cissors" [Chinese: 一把剪] and was recognized as a famous papercutting master, cutting "happy flowers" [Chinese: 喜花], "lamp flowers" [Chinese: 灯花] and "fireworks" [Chinese: 礼花] in occasion of festivals.

Papercutting Master's Recognition

Following the death of her husband around 1952, Jiazhi moved with her oldest son in Nanjing. Her papercuts progressively became well-known in Nanjing. Actually, her oldest daughter-in-law, Zhou Chunchu [Chinese: 周春雏], a teacher at Nanjing Middle School n°8 [Chinese: 南京八中任], tell her colleagues the talents of her mother-in-law, and one of them asked papercut flowers for her wedding; and little by little, Jiazhi's talents became well-known in the town.

Some examples of Jiazhi's papercuts are "March 8 Comfortable Heart" [Chinese: 三八舒怀], "Sihe Ruyi" [Chinese: 四合如意], "A Hundred Flowers Blooming to the Sun" [Chinese: 百花齐放向太阳], "Dragon and Phoenix are Prosperous" [Chinese: 龙凤呈祥]. She began to participate to a lot of exposures.

Jiazhi work was first recognized in 1955, when she cut a cup dedicated to Sino-Soviet friendship when the Soviet Education's Delegation was visiting Nanjing. In her 60s, she was a member of Nanjing Art Association [Chinese: 南京市美协会]. She became famous in 1959, when she created the papercut "Long Life to the Country" [Chinese: 祖国万岁] which promoted the 10 first years of the New China's construction. Later, her papercraft "Pork Farming's Glory" [Chinese: 养猪光荣] was selected by China's Foreign Affairs and Culture Commission to be exhibited in Poland.

In the 1980s, Jiazhi's papercuts became more famous, some examples are "Vientiane Update" [Chinese: 万象更新], "Happy World" [Chinese: 美满人间], and "Mandarin Duck and Lotus" [Chinese: 鸳鸯戏荷]. She was recognized as the "Master of Papercutting's Chinese Contemporary Art" [Chinese: 当代中国剪纸艺术的金母泰斗]. At the end of the 1990s, papercutting became more and more popular in her native county. A lot of Jiazhi's papercuts were gathered by the National Art Museum of China, Jiangsu Art Museum, and other museums.

Later Life

In 2006, Jiazhi's oldest daughter Yuan Zhenxiang [Chinese: 袁振湘] wrote an article entitled "Mom's Longevity Experience" [Chinese: 妈妈的长寿经验], in which she lists what can have make her mother living so long. Jiazhi massaged her belly when she had gastric problems. She also had a good attitude, and often said: "Your family is great, I'm happy." She woke up with drinking a salted water cup. At breakfast, she ate oats sup with goji (or dats or sesam pouder) and a teaspoon of honey; and at lunch and dinner, she ate noodles or rice with some vegetables and some meat. Jiazhi also maintains her brain with practising papercutting, and read newspapers every morning (with a magnifying glass at age 111).

In 2007, during the 3rd International Papercutting Exposition, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award [Chinese: 终身成就奖]. In February 2008, she made a papercutting exhibition in Nanjing. In October 2008, she met then-108-year-old professor Zheng Ji, the oldest living man in Nanjing at this time. In 2009, Jiazhi's former home was renovated and turned into the "Hu Jiazhi's Papercutting Museum" [Chinese: 胡家芝剪纸艺术馆].

In December 2009, she was reported as the oldest living person in Jiangsu province. In February 2010, she celebrated her 113th birthday.

On 8 March 2010, Jiazhi's oldest son and youngest daughter created a papercut for the 100th birthday of the Women's Day. Some days before her death, she fell ill and lost a bit her appetit. She was hospitalized, and was discharged on 13 March, but 9 days later (on 22 March), she had difficulties to eat, and was admitted at hospital again. Her state improved, and the noon of her death, she ate some mantous (steamed little breads) before taking a nap.

Jiazhi died of organ failure in Nanjing, Jiangsu, China, on 23 March 2010, around 2:50 p.m., at the claimed age of 113 years, 26 days. Some hours before she died, she whispered her descendants' names. She was posthumly awarded with the title of "Emeritus Heir of Zhejiang's Immaterial Cultural Heritage (Papercutting)" [Chinese: 浙江省非物质文化遗产(剪纸项目)荣誉传承人] by Zhejiang's Culture Departement [Chinese: 浙江省文化厅] and Tonglu County's Culture and Broadcasting Bureau [Chinese: 桐庐县文广局].

Potential Longevity Records

She was the second-oldest known living person in China at the time of her death, after Li Sifen.

If validated, she could have been the fourth-oldest living person in Asia, after Kama Chinen, Chiyono Hasegawa and Shige Hirooka. She could also have been the tenth-oldest living person in the world.



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