Origami is a word of Japanese origins which stands for : "folding paper" or "folded paper", according to the context in which it is used, and it is a technique through which one can make several figures and shapes by folding one or more paper sheets.
Probably, the history of Origami started with the invention of paper itself,
which has been officially stated in 105 A.D. in China. Among its uncountable
gifts, this new material could be folded many times without being torn "holding
In spite of its rapid diffusion, paper remained for years a rare and precious material, used for religious ceremonies or on other important occasions. Paper was not used to make models as we intend today but rather to create abstract figures with a symbolic and ritual meaning, following strict formal rules known only to a small number of specialists.
of the oldest examples goes back to the Heian period (794 - 1185
A.D.): a folded paper sheet was used to cover the sake
on the altar as a favourable offer during religious ceremonies.
The most important figure in the Kamakura period (1185 - 1333 A.D.) is the noshi. This is short for noshi-awabi, a sun dried stripe of marine mollusc meat.
Its original meaning is unknown, probably the offer of this type of food,
so highly regarded in Medieval Japan, was considered as a wish of good luck.
It is to be noticed that noshi, at variance from other traditional models, is
obtained by a simple fold, without any cut. Later on, this tendency shall become
predominant in the so called "modern origami".
Between the XVI
and the XVII century, the technique of folding paper was known in Europe too,
especially in Spain and in Italy. And it was in Italy that, in those years,
a peculiar way to fold table napkins in order to embellish the Renaissant tables
From the XIX century, origami has developed also in a creative sense, elaborating
more modern shapes and raising the most simple fundamental rules of the classical
models to extreme levels of refinement and complexity.
In Italy the Centro Diffusione Origami has been active since 1978 with the purpose of promoting the knowledge and the practice of this art, recognising in itself an educative useful tool to increase aesthetic sense, precision and manual ability.
Written by Raffaele Leonardi, 1997.
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