In China's big cities, you now rarely see anyone using a traditional fan to keep cool.At home,Fans seem to have given way to electric fans and air-conditioners.However, in rural areas, the traditional fan is still a popular item. Beyond theirpractical use, they are still used as artistic props in plays, dances and storytelling. The fine craftsmanship that goes into the making of fans also guarantees their place as art work in homes and pulic places.
Four major types of fan include the feather fan, Chinese-fan-palm0leaf fan, folding fan and silk fan.
As its name suggests,feather fans are made of feathers.Scholars believe it to be the oldest type of Chinese fan. The Chinese character for the word fanin-cludes the word featheras part of the compostion.The feathers from eagles,magpies,cranes, kingfishers and peacocks have all served as feather fan material. Up to the end of the han dynasty about 1,800 years ago, holding a feathere fan was fash-ionable amongst the literati and officials. By the beginning of the eighth century,the feather fan had become a deccoration. The emperor at that time would flank himself with 156 peacock feather fans when he received homage from his ministers.He also sent white feather fans to his ministers to show his favor. A noted poet of the time, Bai Juyi, noce wrote a poem about white feather fans. The translationis to the effect that:
White in natural color,
Round due to proper tailoring,
Soughing like wind in the trees,
And flosting in the air like a crane.
It retains coolness even in summer time,
And produces wind all the year round.
From your hand it brings autumn,
And under your arms it hides like a bright moon.
This poem captures the fondness for feather fans from more than 1,000 years ago.In the Song Dynasty, the 156 peacock feather fans were replaced by an even ore magnificent version of the same idea: four pheasant feather fans with stylized double dragons and phoenixes.
The emperors and their ministers of the Qing Dynasty were fond of hunting. They would often take ferocious vultures with them. This spawned the birth and popularty of the rectangular vulture feather fans amohnst the upper class. They were usually made of sis to nine feathers and could be as long as half a meter.The best of its kind were very expensive.
Today,China's feather fans are made mainly of goose feathers.Most are peach-shaped,consisting of about 40 feathers.On the snow-white wurface of fans,different designs are made of gold and silver silk thread. Some include green peacock feathers as edging and may include a red velvet flower in the middle, presenting a gorgeous picture.
Compared with the feather fan, the Chinese-fan-palm-leaf fan has a history of only about 1,500 years. It is cheaper and produces lots of cooling wind which makes it a popular favorite. The process ofproducing a Chinese-fan-palm-leaf fan is quite complicated. First, you need a light green Chinese- fan-palm-leaf with a stalk about 15 centimeters long. Let it sit for about 20 days,then wash it and dry it until it is the color of jade. Once you have got teh color r ight, you press it into shape and tailor it according to its size.You then trim its edges with thread. The most famous fans of this kind are glass-white fans made of young Chinese-fan-palm-leaves. This style is often painted.
The nest type fan is the silk fan. ts full-moon shape led to it being called the round fan. The frame is usually made of iron or bamboo slips. A piece of silk is stretched over the frame and is then decorated with colored drawings.For a time, this type fan was popular among young ladies in the royal court or who came from wealthy families .
The folding fans are the most popular in China even today.They came onto use ring the Song Dynasty about 700 years ago. The folding fands used by emperors and their ministers had ivory,sandalwood or mottled bamboo as the mount which was often carved with figures of birds, flowers, landscapes and even poems. These fans often came with a matching jade pendant. When the ministers gathered, they would proudly display their folded fans.