Origami Heaven

A paperfolding paradise

The website of writer and paperfolding designer David Mitchell


The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, 1002
'The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon', as it is usually known in English, was written by the Japanese lady Sei Shonagan in the years c990 to 1002. The information on this page is drawn from the English translation by Ivan Morris, which was published by Oxford University Press in 1967.

Two caveats as to the accuracy of this information are necessary: First, as the introduction to the translation referred to above makes clear, the Japanese text has not come down to us in a single authoritative version. Rather, there are several versions from which a best text must be drawn. Second, it is possible that English words and phrases in the translation may not be accurate interpretations of words in the underlying Japanese text. The information on this page should therefore be used with some caution.

A full copy of the translation can be found here.

The folding of paper is referred to mostly in connection with the wrapping of objects but there are also some references to more interesting aspects:



In her list of 'Hateful Things' Sei Shonagon includes a reference to kaishi:


Knotted and Twisted Letters

In her list of 'Depressing Things' Sei Shonagan mentions a 'twisted or knotted' letter:


There are three other mentions of twisted or knotted letters:



Note 57 explains:

An appendix at the end of the book illustrates the two types of letter:



There is also a reference to kusudama (though not in a paperfolding sense):


Note 64 explains:

An appendix at the back of the book illustrates a herbal ball: