In China, a fan is not only a tool for cooling in hot weather, but also a crucial part of Chinese culture. The Chinese fan originates from ancient times when our ancestors used leaves or bird feathers to block out the strong sunlight. Thus, another name of Chinese fan was "Zhang Ri", which literally means blocking out the sun.
History of Chinese Fan
In civilized societies, the Chinese fan was initially a symbol of authority and power, made from reed, and was used in the guard of honour for the emperors. Then in the Sui and Tang Dynasty,the feather fan and round silk fan were born. Literates and poets were keen on using a fan or collecting fans. At that time,the Chinese fan became a symbol of elegance and knowledge. Then emerged the folding fan, which developed prosperously in the Qing Dynasty and fan using became much more universal as literates, officers, bookkeepers, or even people of a lower class all liked to hold a fan in their hands.
Common Types of Chinese Fan
The Chinese fan is more like an artwork than a tool, which combines the essence of engraving on fan handles, knitting of fringe on fan pendants and painting or calligraphy on the fan, etc. There are several common types of Chinese fan classified by appearance or materials.
Folding fan consists of the fan, fan handles, and fan rib (framework of fan). This kind of Chinese fan is usually made of paper or satin, while fan handles and fan rib are usually made from bamboo, wood, or ivory. The material of handles and rib is crucial, and is the part to distinguish the value of a fan. The best materials are bamboo palm, mottled bamboo, and ebony. There are always delicate paintings or inscriptions of some significance on the fan. For females, there is a kind of special folding fan named sandalwood fan, obviously made from sandalwood. The ribs are wider and connected with silk thread to form a fan with hollowed designs.
Feather fan is a kind of well-known Chinese fan as it was the symbol of Zhuge Liang, the famous military strategist and politician amongst others. Apparently, the feather fan is made from bird feathers, including peacock, crane, eagle, goose, pheasant to name just a few. The fan handle is usually wooden or sometimes ivory.
Silk fan is also called "round silk fan", as its framework forms a full moon-shape. The framework is usually made from bamboo split or galvanized wire, while the best materials of a fan handle are considered to be bamboo palm, mottled bamboo and ivory. The fan is usually made from silk or chiffon with paintings of beautiful women, landscape, birds or flowers etc decorating it. The silk fan is one of the earliest types of Chinese fan, and was very popular among women of all ages.