All the information you will find in this page, coming from what I've red through the years on origami books, and recently on the web.
So with those few lines, I don't pretend to do a complete and perfect historical essay, but I only wish to share what I've learned about origami during my life, hoping that it could be usefull to the ones that are approching this world for the first time.
Your signalling of any not perecise or wrong informations, will be for me a glad prodding to go more into depht.


Origami ia a japanese word meaning "folding paper" (or "folded paper" depending the on context) and heads the tecnique of creating shapes using only a square piece of paper and a series of folds, without cutting or glueing.

The history of origami probably starts with the invention of paper, that has been officially set to the first century AD in China.
making of paper
Among its other advantages, this new material could be folded (many time) without shredding, and, above all, it could be able to keep the fold naturally (not like fabric, that requires special treatments to do the same).
So origami could have taken its origin from this, even if there are no precise informations about.

It is in early 600 AD, that Japan and paper meet each other for the first time, thanks to some Chinese Buddhist monks that brought paper (and its making tecnique) in Japan.
As soon as it appeared in Japan, paper had an immediate success all over the country. But, even if paper diffusion was quite quick, it remained for many century and expensive material, and so it was used only during official religious cerimonies and important events.

So it is easy to understand how paper was not for all people, but for the only ones who could pay for it.
However, we do not imagine the japanese noblemen of the V and VI century involved in creating origami model as we do now. Papaer in fact was used, during rituals, to do simple and abstract fugures with a symbolic meaning. Those first origami were strongly conditioned by the same stiff formal rules that led social life of that age.

The most ancient real examples of origami model come from the Heian age (794-1185 AD).
In this age Japan reached maybe its maximum level of aestethic refinement, and also was the period in whitch Shintoism had its widest diffusion in the country. Both those factors has given a big boost to origami.
In many religious cerimony, indeed, were used floded paper models (it is interesting to know that "kami" could also mean "gods" as well as "paper"). From boats to fishes, from lamps to dolls, those kind of origami were used as offers ornament or as offers themselves.

Other example of the same time, were the cover of sake bottle (used even today during Shintoist marriage rituals), and two models rapresenting butterflies (male and female).
Male and female butterflies
Also the frog is a model that was created during the Heian age. It had the meaning of "good return", amd so it was folded and given to someone who had to a trip, to wish a good coming back home.

In the Kamakura age (1185-1333 AD) was created the model of noshi.
Noshi is the short name of "noshi-awabi" (a strip of dried shellfish meat). This origami was used in fact to envelope that food. Th noshi-awabi was very a important nutrition by that time, and it had also the symbolic meaning of immortality (for this reason was given, for example, as gift to the samurai in a solemn cerimony).
The honor to envelope such an important food, made the origami of noshi as important as what it contained, becoming itself the gift of immortality.
It also interesting to notice that the origami of noshi could be considered as the real progenitor of modern origami because it was done without any cutting of the paper.

The Tokugawa age (1603-1867 AD), better known as Edo period from the name of the empire capital, marked a real milestone in the history of origami.
Until the beginning of XVIII century, infact, all the tecniques to fold models were handed down orally from ols generation to the following ones.
click on the pic to see the book
In the Edo period, instead, the first origami instruction books started to appear. The very first and meybe the most famous is The Secret of One Thousand Cranes Origami by Sembazuru Orikata and published in 1797. It was entirely dedicated to the crane model, symbol of immortality, and its legend. According to that legend if someone could complete one thousand origami crane models, he will see one of his desire coming true (a practice still used today).
After this first book, were published some other ones with the instructions to fold some other traditional model (cranes, frogs, stars, boxes, dolls, and so on). From that period and until the birth of modern origami, japanese people have continued to hand down the traditional origami models as they were, instead of developing them in something new.

Between the XVI and the XVII century, in Europe, we can assist to a developing of autonome kind of origami, that was not related with the one born in Japan.
In Spain, in fact, due to the cultural influence of arabian invasion, it started using specials folding tecniques on starched fabric.
Beside the well known "gorgiere"
also folded towels and napkins become to have a wide diffusion as a decorative add on for table and furnishing.

PAPIROFLEXIA is the nane that spanish people give to their own origami, to enhance its separete origin and evolution from the japanese one.
The most famous papiroplexia model, the "Pajarita" has become the symbol of the papiroflexia itself.
The pajarita model has an essential and minimalistic style, but it is also interesting because of its flexibility that allow it to be the starting pont for other different models. For all those reasons pajarita could be asociated to the traditional crane model in japanese origami.

During the 1700 AD, in Europe was also very common the "Magic fan". It was a large and long strip of paper, folded like an accordion, that, in the exper hands of an illusionist, could be transform evy quickly in many different shapes (even today magician and illusionists often use multiform origami model as a part of their shows).

In the modern age origami turn into a new life with the creatve origami.
Progenitor of this big origami renaissance was, in my opinion, Akira Yoshizawa. He has been the real first origami ambassador in the word, and he has given to us a lot of origami masterpiece. Moreover he has had also the merit for the creation of a unique and universal way to draw origami diagrams.
We owe to him the folding codification such as "valley fold" and "mountain fold" and many other "drawn language".
Mountain Fold
Valley Fold

Ina world in whitch everybody speaks his own language, to create a unique one is not such a commom things.

From Akira Yoshizava untill today, we have seen many origami masters, and also it happens more and more often that origami go behind the edge of the pure art, giving solutions to actual technical problems (from the air-bags in your car to the solar pannel on the international space station).

Origami is a living art

Main references on World Wide Web (I really thank them)

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