Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell

 

 
Paper, Scissors, Stone
 
This ancient game has, in and of itself, nothing to do with paperfolding but the version that I learned as a child used the phrases, 'Stone blunts scissors, scissors cut paper, paper wraps stone' to show how each of the three outcomes triumphs over another.

'Paper wraps stone' is, of course, a reference to the folding of paper. There are other ways of expressing the defeat of stone by paper and I have not been able to discover how old the 'paper wraps stone' wording is.

According to Wikipedia the game originated in China, the first known mention of the game being in the book Wuzazu written by the Chinese Ming-dynasty writer Xie Zhaozhi who stated that the game dated back to the time of the Chinese Han dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD).

Like many other aspects of Chinese culture it appears that the game was then at some time adopted by the Japanese. Again according to Wikipedia, 'The earliest Japanese sansukumi-ken game was known as mushi-ken ... In mushi-ken the "frog" (represented by the thumb) is superseded by the "slug" (represented by the little finger), which, in turn is superseded by the "snake" (represented by the index finger), which is superseded by the "frog" ... Today, the best-known sansukumi-ken is called ... jan-ken, which ... uses the rock, paper, and scissors signs and is the game that the modern version of rock–paper–scissors derives from directly. By the early 20th century, rock–paper–scissors had spread beyond Asia, especially through increased Japanese contact with the west. Its English-language name is therefore taken from a translation of the names of the three Japanese hand-gestures for rock, paper and scissors: elsewhere in Asia the open-palm gesture represents "cloth" rather than "paper".

The use of the phrase 'paper wraps stone' or similar goes at least as far back as 1906 where it appeared in the American Stationer, 'The stone will smash the scissors, and the scissors will cut the paper, but the paper will wrap the stone, so one suit conquers any card of another suit, but is itself conquered ... This is the famous old Japanese idea of paper, stone, and scissors.' Source OED Appeals http://public.oed.com/appeals/rock-paper-scissors/

If anyone has further information on the antiquity of the 'paper wraps stone' outcome and wording I would be interested to hear it. Thanks.