The Public Paperfolding History Project

Index Page


Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Part 1: Paper and Printing by Tsien Tsuen-Hsuin, 1985
'Science and Civilisation in China, Volume 5, Part 1: Paper and Printing' by Tsien Tsuen-Hsuin was published by Cambridge University Press in 1985. It contains largely incidental information about paperfolding in China, not all of which is reliable, but which is widely relied upon because of the lack of alternative sources of information.

I have not included footnotes in the extracts. These can be viewed in the original text.

A full copy of the work can be accessed online here.

Inter alia, the bibliography contains a entry for:

a copy of which I have been unable to locate. I do not know which journal the abbreviation NCSAS refers to.


Early Paper / Wrapping / Bronze Mirrors

The work contains several pages describing archaeological finds of early paper, although this information is now out of date.

Of particular interest is the mention of some early paper, which can be dated to the 2nd century, found 'under' three bronze mirrors, and which was either used to wrap or pad them. If it was used as wrapping this would be very early evidence of everyday practical paperfolding, but if the paper was only used as padding, no folding would be implied.

From page 38

and from page 122


Other early evidence pf paper having been used for wrapping is also given on page 122.


Ceremonial Paperfolding / Yuan Bao / Sycee

Page 104 states that 'papers ... were cut, folded, or decorated to represent various objects to be used or to be burned on such occasions as family ceremonies and state sacrifices' and mentions 'a small sheet of paper coated with tinfoil, folded in the form of silver or gold ingots' but gives no further evidence about the date of their use. The only illustration of such an object is of one from the 20th century.


Paper Armour

There are several pages devoted to descriptions of paper armour but the only mention of folding is the statement that 'they were clothed with pleated paper armour which could not be pierced by arrows'



Pages 222 onwards give some details of the various binding styles of books with folded pages but give no indication of the earliest date at which some of these styles were introduced.


Recreational Paper Folding / Symmetrical Paper Cuts

There is a section about the recreational use of paper, althought the information about paperfolding seems largely drawn from non-Chinese sources and the only illustration is of triple cranes taken from Isao Honda.

There is an illustration of 'flowers of folded and cut paper' said to be from the early Thrang (Tang?) dynasty (ie c600-800)


Folding Pleated Paper Fans


Folding Paper Umbrellas


Paper Lanterns