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Chinese Fans

The fan is a tool used to drive away heat and stay cool. On hot days, fans can be used to simulate cool breezes. However, since ancient times, Chinese fans have brought artistic charm, enjoying a unique, national flavor. During its long history, the negligible fan was not only intended for daily use, but had also become interwoven with the wisdom of Chinese cultural arts and the soul of the industrial arts of all times, becoming the wonder of China's many fan styles.

More than 3,000 years ago, China had its own fans which come in various types, such as paper fans, silk fans, feather fans and bamboo fans, to name a few. Many are shaped like plum blossoms, Chinese flowering crabapples, sunflowers, etc.

Feather Fan: The feather fan emerged in China around the Shang Zhou Dynasty over 3,000 years ago. The main and best materials used for this type of fan are feathers from large birds, such as quills of fleck willets, tail feathers of the black wide goose, tail feathers of the magnificent peafowl, wing feathers of the round fleck owl, tail feathers of the crane and the white or gray goose.

The work process includes searching, choosing, brushing, washing, arranging, repairing, sewing, fixing, rearranging, and decorating, etc. If the final color does not reflect the original feather, another procedure of dyeing should be done. The most important process to a feather fan is the pairing of feathers on both sides, which are plucked from both wings of one bird.

Shaped Fan: Most ancient silk fans have exquisite designs and various decorations. Shaped fans are very popular among ordinary people with a double-sided single color -- gold or blue porcelain -- that come in various shapes, like a full moon, cashew or hexagon. The fan handles are usually made of mottle bamboo and brown bamboo, as well as ivory. As for the shape of the silk fan, the full moon is most popular, followed by the hexagon, octagon, polygon, palm leaf and phoenix leaf. The Chinese flowering apple, U-shape and quincunx are also common shapes. On the cover of a silk fan are flowers and birds, fish and bugs, landscapes, figure of Buddha, as well as embroideries. Chinese embroidery had already been popular in the Song Dynasty (960-1127).

Rattan Fan: Rattan is a trailing plant with a soft texture, which comes in several varieties, such as white rattan, red rattan and purple rattan. The handicraftsmen of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) used the thin and withered rattan to weave the fan cover, which is extremely durable.

Wheat Straw Fan: It is prevalent in Zhejiang Province. According to a folk custom in Zhuji, if a young man falls in love with his lady, he will receive a beautiful fan of wheat straw when the summer approaches.

Bone Folding Fan: It is made of the buffalo rib and is mainly produced in Suzhou, Changzhou, Jiangxi and Guangzhou. After skiving, sawing, digging, blanching, shaping, carving and polishing, the bone looks exactly like ivory.

Bamboo Fan: It is usually woven of thin bamboo strips from the surface of a mountain. When the fan is finished, it is as smooth as silk. It can be square, round or hexagonal in shape, and usually acquires a reddish hue after five or six years. The bamboo fan is also produced in Qingshen County of Sichuan Province where it is called the "green bamboo fan." There is another kind of bamboo fan that is relatively considered to be low-end and is woven of rough bamboo strips. This extremely durable and cheap fan is produced in northern Zhejiang and southern Anhui.

Palm-Leaf Fan: The palm leaf fan is always round, big and strong, with a long handle and pea green in color. Local people turn the leaf upside down and put weight on it to make it smooth. They then cut it into a round and hang brocade thread along the edge. The handle of the palm-leaf fan is the stem of the palm leaf, which is why it is called a natural handle -- albeit a very rough one. Other materials like bamboo, ivory and hawksbill are also used to make exquisite handles, which are decorated with butterfly laces. These two kinds of fans are both called "punka" or "palm-leaf fan." The palm-leaf fan has been very popular among people because it is inexpensive and portable.

Portable Fan: The portable fan, also called the "mini fan," can be folded and is also portable. One kind of the portable fan has an iron handle, whose fan frame is made of pressed sheets of iron painted with colored lacquer; its surface is made of colorful paper and is very cheap. Another kind of fan has a wooden or bamboo handle, which uses colorful paper and aromatic wood as the cover.

Silk Dancing Fan: Most silk dancing fans are used for drama and dancing and are half silk or silk. The frame of the fan is mainly made of bamboo, sandalwood or cow bone. The cover is always made of various kinds of silk with flower and grass patterns that are sometimes adorned with a flashing aluminum sheet. Some of them are decorated with silk lace along the edge and are mostly used by women.

Hat Fan: The hat fan is used to keep cool in the summer when half-opened and as a sunshade when completely opened. It has good ventilation, is durable, easy to fold and has comes in many varieties.

Hanging Fan: It is also known as the "screen fan" and is usually hung on the wall or put in the sitting room for decoration. The frame is 60 to 70 cm long, and is actually a large folding fan. The Hangzhou Wangxingji Fan Manufacturing Plant once produced a huge screen fan named "Panorama of the West Lake in Hangzhou," which has a side length of 2.6 meters, measures around 10 square meters when unfolded and weighs 16 kilograms. The frame of the fan is made of top-grade wood with the 10 famous views of the West Lake dotting the two sides. Sixteen pieces of brown paper make up the whole fan cover. This is probably China's largest folding fan.

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