Chinese paper folding

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The Gold sycee is conceptually Chinese. Folding techniques today are likely very different from Ancient China

Chinese Paper Folding or Zhezhi (Chinese: 中國摺紙; pinyin: zhé zhǐ) is the art of paper folding that originated in China. It is the predecessor of today's origami.


Paper was originally invented by Cai Lun in the Eastern Han Dynasty in China. In the 6th century, Buddhist monks carried paper to Japan. The first Japanese origami is dated from this period[1]. Due to political isolation of mainland China up until the Qing Dynasty, the art has not been as thoroughly investigated compared to that of other countries, particularly Japan and the Spanish-speaking lands. The other difficulty is that paper disintegrates and dissolves far faster than other art materials like jade or stone, making historical studies difficult.

The first notable book from Japan on the subject was printed in 1797 in the Sembazuru Orikata, which translates to "The Folding of 1000 Cranes"[1]. It is an indicator that other cultures have successfully adopted the art by this time. In the west, the first book on the subject came from the 1928 "Fun with Paperfolding" by Murray and Rigney which was reprinted by Dover publications and Houdini's Paper Magic.

Mrs. Maying Soong's 1948 book, The Art of Chinese Paper Folding, was another that popularized recreational paperfolding in the 20th century and possibly the first to distinguish the difference between Chinese versus Japanese paper folds. Where the Chinese have inanimate objects like boats, pagoda and the Japanese with living animals like the crane. It contains a number of simple traditional designs, some of which are also found in the traditions of other countries. A number of the models are folded from the blintz base (this means one begins by folding the four corners of a square to meet at the center), a form also common in traditional European and Japanese paper folding. The Old Scholar's Hat is among the old Chinese models found in this book.

The line between the Chinese vs Japanese paperfolding techniques were quite blurred to begin with due to so many years of history. The arrival of Akira Yoshizawa essentially pushed the Japanese name "origami" into the west and the rest of the world. In China and other Chinese speaking places, the art is still referred to by the original name Zhe Zhi (摺紙) unchanged.

Golden Venture folding

A group of Chinese refugees were detained in an American prison and began making elaborate models combining traditional Chinese modular paperfolding (using magazine covers and the like) with a form of papier-mâché (using toilet tissue). These were given as gifts to people who were of help to the refugees, and were also sold at charity fundraisers. The media coverage popularized the traditional Chinese modular folding worldwide, and became known as Golden Venture folding, named after the ship the refugees were on[2].

The modular folding mentioned above is often done with Chinese paper money, and is folded from numerous pieces of paper (a 1 x 2 rectangle: half a square) folded into a relatively simple triangle, and connected by inserting a flap of one triangle into a pocket on the next. Popular favorite subjects for this type folding include pineapples, swans, and ships. This form of modular origami is currently popular under the name 3D origami.


  1. ^ a b Lang, Robert James. [1988] (1988). The Complete Book of Origami: Step-by Step Instructions in Over 1000 Diagrams/48 Original Models. Courier Dover Publications. ISBN 0486258378
  2. ^ Origami-rs. "Origami-rs." Golden Venture Folding. Retrieved on 2007-05-24.