China has its profound fan culture, which has the close relationship with the bamboo culture and Buddhism. It is hard to say the exact time that fans had became popular in Chinese history. Fan in Chinese culture is an art work combined the Chinese calligraphy, paintings or poems rather than a daily tool.
Types of Chinese Fans
According to different materials, there are feather fan, silk fan, paper fan, wheat straw fan, bone folding fan and palm-leaf fan, etc.
As to the functions, fan can be divided into the dancing fan, hanging fan, hat fan as well as large folding fan for decoration and so on.
The earliest fan appeared During the Yin Dynasty about 3,000 years ago. It was first made of colorful bird feathers and served as the thing for the empire to avoid sand blow by wind in the open air. After Western Han Dynasty (206BC-24AD), fan became a tool to drive away heat and simulate cool breezes. During the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD – 220 AD), fans began to be made of silk instead of feather. At that time, fan were shaped like the full moon, cashew or hexagon with the handle made of wood, bamboo, bone even ivory.
The faces of fan are often painted with flower and birds as well as the water and mountain scenery. The embroidery face was also very popular. The first painted fan with calligraphy appeared during the Three Kingdoms Period (220AD-280AD).
Here is a story about the inscribed fan. Once there was an old woman who selling hexagon bamboo fans in Shaoxing, Zhejiang Province. She pleaded inscription from the famous calligraphy master Wang Xizhi. Wang jumped at the inquiry and inscribed five characters on the fan. Therefore, the price rose dramatically. When it comes to the Northern Song Dynasty, mini portable fans came into being. During the Southern Song Dynasty, it was a trend of collecting and inscribing fans and there were fan shops and merchants in cities.
In modern times, many Chinese painting maters such as Qi Baishi and Zhang Daqian are very good at fan inscription. The inscriptions especially out of the masters will add great value to fans, which has become the favorite of many collectors.
Hangzhou city is famous for its fan making. First established in 1857, Wangxingji Fan Shop is one of the oldest brands.