The art of paper folding has existed for at least 14 centuries. While origami is traditionally associated with Japan, scholars dispute the exact date and location of origami’s development. China has an established history of paper-folding as well, and early paper folding traditions have been documented in several European countries, including Spain and Italy. However, while origami’s beginnings are somewhat unclear, it cannot be disputed that origami has a rich and fascinating history.
The Origins of Origami
Some scholars believe the art form of origami began soon after the development of paper in 105 A.D. The invention of paper is attributed to the Chinese man Ts’ai Lun, an official in the Chinese Imperial government. Some scholars cite historical evidence of Chinese fans from the 2nd century as an early example of paper folding in the nation.
Most historians, however, credit the invention of origami to the Japanese. Buddhist monks from China brought paper to Japan in the 6th century, where the art of origami soon blossomed throughout the country. In fact, it was the Japanese who coined the term “origami”: it comes from the Japanese words “oru” (meaning “to fold”) and “kami” (meaning “paper”).
Origami in Japan
The Japanese soon incorporated the art of paper folding into their popular culture. Paper figures became a traditional exchange between Samurai warriors, and some origami shapes were integrated into Japanese religious ceremonies. Because paper was very expensive in ancient Japan, origami was initially reserved for the upper classes of society. However, over time, origami became popular throughout the country. As more people practiced origami, the Japanese invented more complex and creative designs.
These designs were passed down through a rich oral tradition in Japan. In fact, the first written instructions for origami figures did not come until the 18th century, when the first origami book (called “Thousand Crane Folding”) was published.
Origami in Other Cultures
While Japan arguably has the richest history of origami, other countries have historical records of paper folding as well. After the Arabs first brought paper to Spain in the 12th century, the Spanish began folding paper in geometric designs and, eventually, into the more artistic creations we typically associate with origami. Additionally, some scholars believe the Italians had an early paper folding tradition as well, because of a 17th century Italian book documenting the art of napkin folding. Finally, Germany in the 19th century introduced origami in its kindergarten schools as a method of teaching creativity and mathematical principles to children.
Today, the art of origami has become popular worldwide. One reason is the influence of the Japanese Master Yoshizawa, who began publishing books teaching origami designs in the 1950s. His books developed a system of symbols for origami designs that has become standard today. Because of Yoshizawa’s influence, origami’s popularity grew greatly in the 20th century. In 1967, the first Origami Society was founded in the UK; similar organizations soon appeared in Japan, Italy, and Israel.
Since its beginnings in ancient China and Japan, origami has blossomed into a beloved art form across the globe. Today, countless people from numerous cultures enjoy making origami models as a hobby.
Author: Jack Medlin
Jack Medlin is an origami enthusiast that appreciates and understands the ancient art of origami. While many artists prefer to keep the secrets of their skills from the public, Mr. Medlin is dedicated to sharing the world of origami with others interested in this almost-forgotten art. To begin your journey as an origami artist, visit www.origami-made-easy.com for more information on the fascinating craft of origami.