I was first introduced to Chinese modular origami by my aunt when I was in elementary school. A friend of hers taught her how to make a pineapple (ball), we made one with 500 pieces of Chinese 1 cent bills, because of the color of the bill, dark yellow/brown, it actually looked convincing. She also told me that her friend had huge models of ships made out of same triangle pieces, I didn't really believe it was possible.
Summer of 1997, I visited Museum of Chinese in the Americas (MoCA) that happen to have a expo of these types of models. The models were amazing, range from full size American bald eagle, full size bikes, tea sets, to miniature ship models (about 5 feet long). The models were made by bunch of Chinese stowaways that got locked up. They represented their American dreams, sometimes these origami are also refer to as Chinese Refugees Modular Units. I wasn't allowed to take any pictures, and I didn't have enough time to figure out how they are made.
Winter 2001, I found a bunch of websites by other Chinese origami model fans. They had some amazing models that I had never seen, some where designed by themselves. One of them pointed me to a Japanese book store in NYC (Kinokuniya Bookstores) that had lots of books on these models. Apparently these type of origami are a lot more popular than i thought, Japanese call them block folding origami.
The thing I love about this type of modular origami, compare to other modular origami or normal origami, is that the individual units are very simple to fold, I often make them while watching TV. But once you assemble them, you can create wonderful complicated looking 3D models. Thanks to these wonderful websites and books, I was able to make a lot of different new models, not just the simple pineapple.