Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Paper folding - Japanese Temples

I was thinking recently that my love of paper has been taking a back seat on the blog to all the other forms I am exploring at the moment - fabric, metal, perspex and timber. I thought it was about time to re-connect with paper and recalled that about this time last year we had just returned from our artistic exchange to Japan.

When we visited temples we often saw these folded paper offerings. Sacred places are typically marked with a shimenawa (special plaited rope) and shime (strips of white paper). The ropes are placed at the entrances of holy places to ward off evil spirits, or placed around trees/objects to indicate the presence of kami (spirits, natural forces or the essence of Shintō Buddhism). The pieces of white paper that are cut into strips and hung from these ropes (often hung from ropes on Torii gates as well) are called shime 注連 or gohei; they symbolize purity in the Shintō faith. These photos were taken at Miyajima near Hiroshima.

I liked the way they were simply cuts in folded paper and then fell so gracefully into the form which fluttered in the breeze.  Sublime elegance and simplicity with a spiritual purpose.


  1. clever of you to do this and figure it out whist in Japan!

  2. I also went to Japan last year-- Oct..
    and visited many temples in Kyoto. I am half Japanese and have been exploring the aesthetics and culture for several years. I loved it so much there that I am planning another trip there next year.

  3. Thanks Fiona
    I too loved those paper foldings at temples in Japan but was not as clever as you to unfold one while I was there. I have spent the last two days cutting and folding to try and remember how it was done.

    I have lots on nice bits of foldings here now but those were a mystery until now. Can't wait to make some in silver, they won't blow in the breeze of course but we will see what happens...


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