Origami - a Modern Visual Art With a Deep History

When I was in grade 3, I would always want to fold paper. I would find books and tutorials online about how to fold certain complicated “animals” and “things”. Around a month ago, I found my previous folds and wondered if they had any connection with algebra and mathematics in any way. Of course, I did some research and found out that the simple folds were actually considered theorems and it also had to do with trigonometry and topics we discussed during class such as the side ratios.


To start things off, paper was invented in China around 100 B.C. This was when paper was first invented, which was made with mulberry bark, hemp rags, and water. By 600 A.D., paper had finally reached Japan and was only available to a few wealthy people, so was considered a luxury item. Folding paper only happened during ceremonial practices as it was very expensive. The first non-religious folds of origami included a “Noshi”, which was used as a token of good luck, and also the “Tsutsumi”, which was formal wrapping.

Paper Folding

Origami, as a craft was initially known as “orikata” meaning folded shapes, however, the term origami comes from the Japansese words “oru-” meaning folding, and “kami” meaning paper. Origami, as a recreational activity only started happening around 1603-1868, which is called the Edo or Tokugawa Period. This period is called the Edo/Tokugawa Period because Japan was under the rule of Tokugawa Leyasu, being the most powerful man after Hideyoshi, the previous ruler had died. During this period, Leyasu established and promoted foreign trade, which encouraged new art forms such as kabuki, origami, and ukiyo-e. Most of the origami works were made to be birds, such as the crane, flowers, as well as other animals or plants. Additionally, back during the Edo Period, artists were allowed to cut the paper, however, today, true origami is considered to be those without cuts, and only folds. Even though there are many origami books today, telling you to glue and cut, those may not be true origami, but just the folding of paper and art. This feature of origami was originated from Europe from napkin-folding. Napkins were first used in the 1400’s by royalty. It was not before the 1800’s that napkins were used by the middle-class. This was also essentially when people started to fold napkins as decoration. By the 1880’s, this then started to turn into art. Around the Edo Period, when paper became more affordable, it was used in many scenarios such as for gifts, envelopes, cards, and even as an educational tool in subjects such as math. The first book ever written about how to fold Origami was published in 1797 and written by Akisato Rito. The name of the book was Sembazuru Orikata, meaning Thousand Crane Folding. The name of this book was chosen based off of the traditional story in Japan, where if a person folds 1000 cranes, they will be granted a wish.


At the begining of its hostiry origami was a form of recreational activity. Starting from 19th century till nowadays it is definetelly a form of visual art that it being taught in school. It is awesome how some modern things can have so deep history and play much important role for our ancestors. 

07 July 2022
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