Teacher shares growing passion for paper folding

By Yuan Hui in Hohhot and Zhou Huiying in Harbin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-09-15 09:16

Online origami video inspires art master to impart new skills to students

Without the use of scissors or glue, Qiang Shengwu, brings different sized sheets of paper to life by folding them into works of art with an incredible ability and a driving passion.

Qiang, 40, is an art teacher in a middle school in Yiminhe township, part of Hulunbuir in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

"As an art teacher, I like to collect information about art to show to my students," Qiong said. "In the winter vacation of 2013, I happened upon a video of an origami competition in Japan on the internet."

The skill of the competitors amazed him and later he discovered that they were among the leading origami practitioners in Japan.

"I still remember the work in the final," he said. "A competitor created a scene involving waves, a fishing boat, fish and an old fisherman by folding a single piece of paper measuring 3 square meters.

"It's common to see origami cranes, airplanes, boats or even flowers, but I couldn't imagine such a complicated work could be made of paper."

Qiang became obsessed with origami and devoted most of his spare time to it.

"I began to collect everything about origami and learn how to fold paper through videos on the internet," he said. "Fortunately, due to my artistic ability, I didn't spend much time getting the hang of the basics."

After a year's practice, he decided to try to make a copy of Ryujin - a Chinese dragon - a creation by Kamiya Satoshi, a master in Japan who has achieved international fame.

"Folding takes much longer than you expect, usually dozens of days for a work like Ryujin," he said. "But it was an exciting moment when I finished it for the first time, even though it could't compare with Kamiya Satoshi's original work."

After years of practicing origami, he developed a new understanding of the art.

"Anybody can work out a basic design according to a crease pattern, but I think it is more important to think of how to create emotion from paper," he said. "Each piece has its own unique character and the intricate detail cannot be repeated."

He has made a dozen copies of Ryujin over the years and, to him, each is different.

Qiang has shared his passion for origami with his students.

"One day I showed an origami boomerang to my class, which aroused great interest among the students," Qiang said. "I began to show them some basic techniques and make some entry-level works with them."

Qiang was inundated with questions and requests for technical guidance, even after class. "Origami is not a single art form. It's a kind of science, which includes knowledge of physics and geometry," he said. "It also allows practitioners to express individual interpretation and creativity."

Qiang cited the example of Sun Hongtao, a student from Shandong Experimental High School, whose university enrollment score was lowered by 60 points because of his outstanding skill in paper folding.

"Although he failed to get into the Harbin Institute of Technology, for one of the leading universities in the country to take this stance shows the effect of origami on students' comprehensive development."

Besides practicing origami, Qiang spends most of his spare time talking to people who dabble in origami all over the world.

"It's free to talk to anyone on the internet," Qiong said. "We can discuss the hobby and exchange experiences."

As his reputation has grown, so too has the number of people looking to him for advice. To date, he has completed hundreds of origami works. "I send some to my friends as gifts," he said, "and I feel particularly pleased when I see them treasure my works."

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