The Cool Story of Chinese Fans
“Shaken in hand and a cool breeze embraces you,” this is one description of the cooling power of the delicate Chinese fan.

The Fans

The origin
•  No one knows exactly how fans in China were invented. The invention or rather the discovery of the fanning function could have been as accidental as follows: a primitive man irritated with lots of flies and mosquitoes, picks up a big leaf off a plant next to him to drive the pests away. To his delight, his effort resulted in cooling air movements

•  Along with the progress made in agriculture in the Han and Tang Dynasties, an ample supply of clothing material resulted. Silk and satin fans appeared and it became a fashion among scholars and artists to show their genius by writing and painting on fan surfaces. Fans soon acquired considerable social significance and became a part of the standard summer costume among the elite and the learned

•  Folded fans were introduced to China from Japan and Korea about 1,000 years ago. They were usually made with fine paper mounted on bamboo. The scholars found it interesting to paint their poetic and artistic expressions on the surface.

•  China fan culture has a national profound cultural foundation. It has close relation with bamboo culture and Buddhism culture .China has always been known as the kingdom of fan making. The fan in China, having three to four thousand years history of evolution , already has been developed greatly into hundreds types .

•  But generally is summarized into two major categories; “A ping fan” (that is TuanShan, KuiShan, wheat straw fan, jade edition fan, etc) can't be folded; the other is “folding fan” which can be freely opened and folded

The types of the fans (1600B.C.-1100 B.C.)
起初制扇是用羽毛作材 料,因 此“扇”字“户”下一 个“羽”字 At

first made with feather, so "fan" worded "family" next "feather" word The first fans were made of birds' feathers and tree leaves.

The types of the fans
•  Fans were not used to keep off the heat, but to keep off the dust raised by wheels of a cart •  It was not until the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-220 A.D.) that fans were used by common people to enjoy cool air in summer •  “以龙致雨,以扇逐暑”

The types of the fans (ping fan)
•  In the western Han Dynasty, there was a kind of fan called “Hehuan fan”, a kind of Ping fan •  “齐纨楚竹”之说,即指用山东绢和湖南 竹制作扇面的纨扇 •  班婕的扇诗,"新裂齐纨素,鲜洁如霜雪, 裁为合欢扇,团团似明月,出入君怀袖, 动摇微风发"

Hehuan fan

Since this type of fan appeared ,it had been became the traditional one

•  Round fans (ping fan) were first seen in China and remained the main shape of fans until the Tang and Song dynasties (618-1279 A. D.) •  唐代杜牧《秋夕》:“银烛秋光冷画屏, 轻罗小扇扑流萤。天阶夜色凉如水,卧 看牛郎织女星。”

The types of the fans (the folding fan)
•  Folding fans were invented by the Japanese. Introduced into China through Korea in the 11st century, and quickly gained popularity in China thereafter.

The types of the fans (the folding fan)

•  Nowadays ,the fans mainly are folding fans as we see in daily life •  However ,there are many different kinds of folding fans according to their different materials •  Fans made of bamboo and paper bone and feather ivory and carved lacquer ware and paper or silk.

•  Fans made of palm tree leaves are both economical and practical and are very popular among the people. •  And the most precious fans are those made of mother-of-pearls. •  In 11st century ,Guangzhou was well known for its production of large quantities of ornamental fans. These fans were not only sold in domestic markets, but also exported to foreign countries.

•  Fans made of eagles' feathers and other plumes were the major kinds for export. •  Hangzhou was famous for its folding fans •  Nanjing was famous for making folding fans •  Ningbo mainly produced low-cost paper fans. As paper fans produced in Ningbo had such a competitive price, Japanese paper fans were pushed out of the Chinese market.

•  The history of Chinese fan can be dated to over 3,000 years ago, around the Shang Dynasty ,The first type of fan, known as Shanhan, was tied to a horse-drawn carriage to shut out the strong sunshine and shelter the passengers from the rainfall. The Shanhan was a bit like today’s umbrella. Later this Shanhan became a long-handled fan made of thin and tough silk or birds’ feathers, called a zhangshan fan, which was mainly used by the emperor’s honor guard as decoration.

•  In fact, the fan was not used to help cool people until the Zhou Dynasty, more than 2,000 years ago. At that time, fan was usually made of feathers and called “feather fan,” which was only popular among the noble class. The fan was popularized during the Han Dynasty .when the simple bamboo fan and the cattail-leaf fan were invented.

•  These fans were most popular among the common people during the Song Dynasty .Around the same period, a silk fan in the shape of the moon, called a “round fan,” became the favorite of young ladies, especially those in the imperial place. Later, this moon-shaped fan took on many other shapes, such as oval flat round, or sometimes the shape of Chinese plum flower or sunflower.

•  . Usually, ribs of the fan were made of animal bones, wood or bamboo, while the handle was engraved with beautiful designs and decorated with jade pendants. Beautiful scenes of mountains and waters or flowers were also embroidered on the face of a moon-shaped fan. Deeply loved by young ladies, the round fan was popular in China for nearly 1,000 years.

•  The popularity of the moonshaped fan even enhanced the development of painting itself. From the Song Dynasty on, fan painting became an independent art form. The typical composition used in fan painting could be seen in many landscape paintings and figure paintings at the time.

•  When talking about fans today, we usually refer to the exquisite folding fan, which is said to be introduced to China from Japan during the late Song Dynasty. It is rumored that the Japanese invented the folding fan after being inspired by bat’s wings. As this fan could be easily folded and carried, it soon came into fashion. Compared to other types of fans, the folding fans more like a piece of handicraft.

•  The ribs of folding fans were made from valuable materials, such as hawks-bill turtle, ebony (乌木), mottled bamboo, elephant trunk, carved into different shapes, for example a grasshopper’s legs. And the different sizes of folding fans are classified by the number of ribs the fan has, usually 7, 9, 12, 14, 16 or 18

•  However, the most interesting of a folding fan is usually made of xuan paper or silk and beautifully painted. If a famous artist painted the fan, it could be worth a lot of money. For example, a folding fan painted with running script of Chinese calligraphy by Zhang Daqian, a famous Chinese painter, sold for HK$252,000. And many contemporary painters, like Qi Baishi, Xu Beihong, are known as elite fan-painting artists.

•  Today, there are over 500 kinds of fans in China, of which the sandalwood fan from Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, the damask silk fan from Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, the fire-painting fan from Guangdong Province and the bamboo thread fan are known as the four most famous fans of China. Recently, an exhibition of Chinese fans was opened at the Hongbaotang Gallery, located on Antiques Street in Beijing.

•  Through late August, the exhibition will display fans by more than 200 artists across China. During the exhibition, some folding fans will also be for sale, priced from 300 Yuan to 5,000 Yuan. Widely used for thousand years, Chinese fan is still bringing people cool breeze and the scant of brilliant Chinese culture


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