A Guide To Origami

A Short History of Origami

Origami is a Japanese word which takes its name from the Japanese word ori, which means "to fold," and kami, which means "paper."

Origami Tsuki
An example of Origami Tsuki

China invented paper in approximately 105 A.D. It is believed that a Buddhist monk introduced paper to Japan in the sixth century, where it became a luxury item not many had access to. Initially, the Japanese only used origami for ceremonial activities. For example, the Origami Resource Center notes that "Origami Tsuki was a folded piece of paper that accompanied a valuable gift, and it served as a certificate of authenticity."

When paper became more affordable and mass-produced, origami evolved into a more recreational activity; by the 17th to 19th centuries, origami had become a form of art. In 1797, the first instructions on how to fold an origami paper crane appeared. By the mid-1800s, compilations of origami folding instructions had become available. And, by the late 1800s, the term "origami" had become popularized over the more ancient orikata which meant "folded shapes."

The art of paper folding was not only limited to the East. The Silk Road helped pass along the process of making paper from Asia to Europe. Although it is not clear whether the art of paper folding was also passed on or invented separately in Europe, by the 8th to 12th century Spain was also engaging in paper folding.

In modern times, origami has transformed into a widespread recreational activity that people of all ages can enjoy.


The Origami Resource Center

PBS: Between the Folds