History of the Chinese paper folding books and its froebelian influence

The history of paperfolding
Post Reply
Joan Sallas
Posts: 53
Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2011 2:20 pm
Location: Weimar, Germany

History of the Chinese paper folding books and its froebelian influence

Post by Joan Sallas » Tue Apr 18, 2017 4:15 pm

Many western folders believe that the book of Mai-ying Sung, best known as Maying Soong [席曼英, xímànyīng] o Maying Hsi Soong [宋席曼英, sòng xímànyīng] The Art of Chinese Paper Folding for Young and Old is the first book on Chinese paper folding. It was published 1948 by Harcourt, Brace and Co. in New York, later reissued, and translated into Dutch (Chinees vouwboek. Amsterdam: Uitgeverij van Breda, 1949) and later into other languages.

After a preliminar research on the Chinese paper folding bibliography in Chinese language in the PaDoRe-Archive in Weimar (Germany), we discovered and in a big part collected ca. 100 books published before this book, and near 300 books after Maying Soong until today. Probably, the political situation since 1949 in China don't helped west folders to find Chinese paper folding books, and recognize an always suposed but never seen Chinese own paper folding development and value.

The first books that we know, were published have their origin through the influence of the froebelian pedagogic and the introduction of Kindergartens in China. We comment a little about this process.

During the last years of the Qing Dynasty [1644-1911] north american methodists and presbyterian persons founded 1890s the first not official Kindergarten in their mission in Beijing. Mainly, the methodists founded a lot of successful kindergartens in other Chinese places like Jiangnan [江南], a region concept, including the provinces Jiangsu, Shanghai and Zhejiang), Fuzhou [福州] and Xiamen [厦门], in the Fujian province, Nanjing [南京], Xinghua [兴化] and Suzhou [苏州] in the Jiangsu province, Nanchang [南昌] in the Jiangxi province, Tianjin [天津], and in Shanghai, were german women worked as educators. At the begin, some Chinese women educators studied in USA or in Japan, and leaded new kindergartens. Later, kindergarten teachers studied two years (and one third with practice) in the Chinese College for Women (Union-Frauenschule) in Beijing, were seven kindergarten teachers and four kindergarten helpers found an attached kindergarten to exercise teachers. At this time existed in China "Volkskindergarten" too (Kindergarten for free for poor people), as well as some educative centers for poor christian children's. In the Elemental Children Schools children exercise two hours every day the froebelian occupations (through them paperfolding).

For the Froebelian occupations was used foreign material, but soon the educators saw that the material made in China was cheaper than the imported material, and it changed. The Chinese industry started to produce froebelian material with own elements like bamboo or raffia. Chinese sheets of paper to fold were thin and durable than the stiff german folding paper. About the size, the kindergarten teachers in China didn't unified their opinion. Slowly, the teachers thought with the possibility to found a publishing house to edit all the froebelian books which in China and in mandarin language were needed.

Children folded in Chinese kindergarten reis shops, trains and ships representing the reis transport and reis selling. So, beside the german, american or japanese models, the books introduced more and more models from the own Chinese folding tradition, like zhen xian bao, yuan bao, and many others.

A similar process happened before in Japan too. Between 1871 and 1873, the Japanese statesman and educator Fujimaro Tanaka [田中 不二麿, 1845–1909] travelled with the Iwakura Mission (岩倉使節団) to Europa and America and was very impressed on the ideas by the German pedagogue Friedrich Froebel [1782-1852]. When he came back became Vice Minister for Education in 1874. Tokyo Women’s Normal School’s kindergarten’s first director Shinzo Seki [1843–1880] translated into Japanese the books Kindergarten Diary (1876) [幼稚園記, yōchienki] and Kindergarten Manual: the 20 different types of toys (1879) [幼稚園法二十遊嬉, yōchien-hō nijū Yūki], written by the american pedagoge Karl Daniel Adolph Douai [1819–1888]. Seki organize the 14th November 1876 in Tokyo the first Japanese Kinderarten as part of the Tokyo Women’s Normal School [東京女子師範学校, tōkyō joshi shihan gakkō]. The first teachers were the german Klara Matsuno [松野クララ, 1853–1941, born in Berlin as Klara Zittelmann] and the japanese Fuyu Toyoda [豊田芙雄, 1845–1941] and Hama Kondo [近藤濱].

In 1903, Japanese educators called the Kindergarten yòuzhìyuán [幼稚园] ("Gardens of young and ignorant children"), a term translated from Japanese into Chinese. They were in Wuchang (a sub-region of nowadays Wuhan) and in Beijing, where was called Imperial Children College [京师蒙养院, jīngshī méng yǎng yuàn]. Since 1904, the official Kindergartens in China are called méng yǎng yuàn [蒙養院].

Under the promotion of new-style education from Zhidong Zhang [张之洞], the viceroy Duanfang Tuoteke [托忒克·端方, 1861-1911] organized the first officially-established preschool (or kindergarten) in China in 1903 autumn, called Hubei Youzhiyuan [湖北幼稚園], located in Wuchang (武昌, a sub-region of Wuhan [武漢]) in Hubei [湖北] Province. Hired Michie Tono (戸野美知恵) and two other persons, totally japanese nannies [保姆, bǎomǔ] help organize the kindergarten. It was a colonial nursery with Japanese curriculum, where children of well-off Chinese families even learned Japanese. The kindergarten is called youzhiyuan [幼稚園] at that time, the same chinese characters read as youchi'en [幼稚園] in japanese and used in Japan, and it means gardens of children. In the same year, a kindergarten in Beijing is also established and called as Capital No.1 Kindergarten [京师第一蒙養院]. The kindergarten there was called as mengyangyuan [蒙養院], means courtyard for pre-education. In 1904 Jan, Qing government made rule that all the preschools are named as mengyangyuan [蒙養院]. So the name of the kindergarten in Wuchang changed into Wuchang Mengyangyuan [武昌蒙養院]. 1905 Chinese women were sent to Japan to learn kindergarten techniques.

The reformist Chinese translator change Xiū Yán [嚴修, also called as Fànsūn Yán 嚴範孫 [1860-1921] founded 1905 in Tianjin [天津] the private Nannies Teaching & Training Institute [保姆講習所, bǎomǔ jiǎngxí suǒ] for the formation of "nannies" for Kindergarten. In 1910 there were already a dozen of Kindergarten in cities like Beijing, Shanghai or Tianjin, that needed a bibliographic support. So they were appearing publications on froebelian occupations (including folding) that were translated from Japanese into Chinese. The folded models were from the German froebelian pedagogy, including models from the Japanese folding tradition.

Already in the 1920s, during the Republic of China [1912-1949], reformers pedagogues as Xíngzhī Táo 陶行知 [1891-1946], Hèqín Chén 陳鶴琴 [1892-1982] or Xuěmén Zhāng 張雪門 [1891 -1973], influenced by John Dewey [1859-1952] from the school teachers Columbia University (USA), reacted to Japan's influence, which had resulted the inclusion of many Chinese traditional folding models in publications.

Already in the early years of the People's Republic of China, the publication of educational paper folding books continued but it was during the so called Cultural Revolution [1966-1976], that a real drought of Chinese publications on paper folding exists. After the recognizement 1979 of the Peoples Republic of China in the United Nations, the Chinese publishers start to increase the number of paper folding books, which since the 1990s until today multiplied the number of titles.

article written by Xiaoxian Huang and Joan Sallas

Post Reply