Origami is the Japanese word for paper folding. ORI means to fold andKAMI means paper. Together, they form the word, "origami." It is an art form that has been handed down from parent to child through many generations. Origami involves the creation of paper forms usually entirely by folding. Animals, birds, fish, geometric shapes, puppets, toys and masks are among the models that even very young children can learn to make in just one sitting.
The art of making paper from pulp originated in China in the year 102A.D. Paper then became more available to the masses. The secret of making paper was kept in China for several hundred years and finally made its way through Korea and into Japan. A Buddhist monk is said to have carried this secret .The introduction of paper making to Japan several hundred years later coincided with the development of their religion and soon became part of the lives of its people. Colors and silk threads were added and origami was held in high esteem. Gifts were decorated with "noshi." Noshi had particular fold patterns depending on the gift.
In Japan, at one time origami was taught in schools but today, children are generally taught origami at home. Holidays are celebrated with colorful origami decorations made by the family. On children's day (formerly boy's day), children make colorful carp: a fish that swims upstream, against the current. This symbolizes strength. During the summer, Tanabata, The Star Festival is celebrated. Live bamboo branches are decorated with origami stars and other paper decorations in a manner which brings to mind a decorated Christmas tree.
WHO WERE THE FIRST PAPER FOLDERS?
There is an ongoing debate as to who were the first paper folders. Certainly, paper folding is a part of Chinese culture: perhaps they were the first. When people are buried, replicas of items are folded and included in their tombs. Also, the Chinese have always been frugal people who wouldn't waste something that could be reused. So, a paper that has served its original purpose now can be recycled for origami. Many origami toys were developed by the Chinese. The most famous of these is the "waterbomb." Children make balloons out of paper, fill them with water and throw them down with a loud splat. Today, paper folders refer to the base of the waterbomb as the "waterbomb base."
Europeans have evidence of Baptismal certificates dating back hundreds of years with a recognizable crease pattern. As trade among nations developed, magicians often traveled to distant lands bringing with them the magic of origami.
Today the strongest evidence points to the Ancient Egyptians as the first paper folders. A map to the tombs in the Valley of the Kings was found. It resides in a museum in Milan, Italy. It is more than 2.000 years old. Here the papyrus (The first known paper dating back 4.500 years is made in a laborious process from papyrus reeds.) shows creases on the map. This crease pattern is similar to the way maps are folded today. However, a sheet of papyrus took a week to make and it is brittle. Probably there was very little other paper folding done by the Egyptians.
Though the debate continues as to who was first, each nation brought something to the fold and you have a chance to do that too. After you learn some of the basics, start experimenting with folding paper. You can make your own folds and become part of the history of origami.