Box · folding · how to construct Zhen Xian Bao · Zhen Xian Bao

Zhen Xian Bao, Post #3 Twist Box for top layer

Twist Box tutorial Zhen Xian Bao
Twist Box tutorial Zhen Xian Bao Here’s a link the  PDF

Zhen Xian Bao, Chinese Thread Book, Post #1 intro

Zhen Xian Bao, Chines Thread Book, Post #2, starting with the finished size

Of all the posts that I plan to write about the Zhen Xian Bao, this will likely be my favorite post. Figuring out both how to make this twist box and explain it have kept me happiliy distracted. I’ve looked closely at photos of people making them, watched clips of the twist box being opened and closed, examined templates, and studied videos (all available for you to see on my Zhen Xian Bao Pinterest board). Then I just kept making these boxes until I was happy with the results.

Twist Box, opened and closed
Twist Box, opened and closed

These boxes are the top layer of the Chinese Thread Book, a structure that is made up of layers of collapsible boxes. Not all of the Zhen Xian Bao have twist boxes on the top, but it’s the style of box that I like the best, as it’s so very different from any of the other boxes in the rest of the structure.

There are numerous versions of the twist box.

The version of the twist box that I originally fell in love with was designed and demonstrated by Chrissy Paperkawaii. While I still like much about her no-cut, no-glue version of the twist box, it’s just a bit too bulky for my liking; also, it was really difficult to twist, and if I could barely make it her way I knew I wouldn’t be able to teach it.

A twist box that I thought I liked the least, but which I now appreciate, appears to be made from a template created by Lori Sauer, which Rachel Marsden wrote about. Rachel’s post is one of the most beautiful pieces I’ve seen on the Zhen Xian Bao. You really must take a look at it. Here’ s the photo of the not-yet-folded twist box that Rachel Marsden made from the template.
Photo from Rachel Marsden’s blog post

You might notice that this shape is almost exactly like the nineteenth drawing on my tutorial page, meaning Rachel probably got her twist box done in few less steps than me. The only reason that it’s not my favorite is that it’s made from a template. So what do I have against templates?

The first answer that comes to mind is that it can be tricky to scale a template. As part of a collection of different styles of origami boxes, I want a reasonable way to scale all the different elements so that I can make whatever size thread book that I want.

The other reason that I prefer not to rely on a template is that being able to figure out the system of folds from a rectangle gives me the chance to fully understand and appreciate the foundational symmetry of the structure that I am folding.

Not long ago I wrote about a fairly tricky folding structure. I included in my post the hard-to-read-and-decipher tutorial page that I had followed as well as a video. I then aimed to entice my highly accomplish weblog friend Candy Wooding to make the piece (she did!) and then asked her if she preferred the video or the written directions. She said that the video was good to start with, but then the written directions provided her with reminders. With this feedback in mind, here’s a video of making the twist box.

Disclaimer? I know I’m not that good at making these videos. Sometimes things fall off the edge of the frame, and my hands get in the way, but I’m hoping that the more I make these the better I will get at it. Still, I think this imperfect video is plenty helpful.

One last note:

Twist Box for Zhen Xian Bao Black and White tutorial
Twist Box for Zhen Xian Bao
Black and White tutorial Small PDF File for Twist Box

Here’s the black and white version of the Zhen Xian Bao tutorial page. You can color in this one in yourself. It’s a small PDF file, unlike the huge color file at the top of the page. I haven’t figured out how to make a small, colored downloadable file to post on my blog.If someone wants to offer me some pointers, I’m interested!

My next Zhen Xian Bao post will either be about the box that is the next level down, or about ways to decorate this box. Haven’t decided yet. Though I know I won’t be able to get to it right away, still, I’m looking forward to post #4! Make boxes! Thank you.

13 thoughts on “Zhen Xian Bao, Post #3 Twist Box for top layer

    1. What a great comment to wake up to wake up to!!!!! IT took me THREE days to make a decent version of this the first time!!! I guess the directions work. So please tell me, did you watch the video, follow the tutorial page, or was it a combination? Thanks so much for leaving this comment.


  1. I just made the box successfully on the first try. I just printed out the instructions and followed them; they were very easy to do. I’m having a great time with your posts; I saw the zhen xien bao a long time ago and wanted to make one, so here’s my real chance. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanks! Well, I made a prototype out of printer paper and then raided my mom’s origami stash for some nicer stuff. I had to make it smaller than the prototype — the masu boxes are about 2″ square — but it came out great! I got pretty enthused and put in three hidden trays on each side. Now I just need some fabric for the cover.


  2. I discovered your Chinese thread books on youtube while unexpectedly stuck in hospital for several months, and loved that with your simple video explanations I could make small versions while lying in bed with poor eyesight. I leant on a book, and the cheap 6 inch origami paper I got came with simple folding tools (though my first attempts were fine just folded with my fingers). And the results were fantastic, with a few scraps of card for covers. Another patient insisted on frequent progress reports!

    Since then I’ve come back often for some inspiration from your projects. My overbed table is heaped with craft supplies to keep me entertained, much to the annoyance of most carers, who would like it tidy & minimal…..

    I don’t know if you’ve yet solved your small coloured PDF dilemma. All I can think of is that some simple black & white line patterns may not make the files much bigger, and they would both add interest and show which side to use in the same way as colour does. But as someone using older devices I love the option of smaller PDF files!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your not Sarah! You’ve really made my day. I wrote today’s post with you in mind, thinking about using available papers and minimal materials for creative explorations.
      If you ever run into a PDF that would be better for you to view as a smaller file, let me know and I will make the change. I think I have it figured out now, but it’s hard to go back and find what needs changing, so I’d be happy to get feedback from you. Best wishes!


  3. Dear Paula, I’ve actually had your site bookmarked for a while now, for the zhen xian bao! A friend sent me the link, saying she’d love to learn how to make it, only she didn’t know if she could. I saved it, and looked at it again when I was recovering from major surgery early this year, and now at the end of the year I FINALLY have a slight breather to rest a bit, so I’m putting together templates for my own zhen xian bao so I can a) make one for me and b) make one for her too. What’s more – I managed to do the twist box first try! I didn’t use the video – I wanted to see if I could challenge myself to do it by reading only the instructions. Yours are very clear, so this gives me hope that I can indeed put together the modules for a full zhen xian bao soon, thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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