Chinese fans are some of the things that have a distinctively oriental appearance.
Somehow, just a glance induces images of Chinese culture to appear in our minds.
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The origins of the Chinese fan date back 3,000 years with archaeological finds having been discovered and excavated.
It was said that these items were first conceived as a screen to block the sun, kind of like we use sun shades for our car windows these days.
The item then slowly evolved into a wearable device that allows people to cool off by holding it steady and producing a stroking motion with their wrist or arms.
The portable handheld fan became a favorite among the masses who began to manufacture themselves with designs, calligraphy, and decorations.
the beauty of some of them led to fans being used solely for display purposes as well.
There are basically 3 common types of Chinese fans. the palm-shaped fan, the feather fan and the folding fan.
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Even today, they can often be found in Chinese homes and are frequently used and loved by the elderly.
Chinese fan legend
A famous fan tale concerns the revered calligrapher Su Shi (蘇軾). he was a government arbitrator and one day he had to hear the case between a fan seller and a nefarious creditor. Due to unusually rainy weather, the fan seller was unable to sell his shares and pay off the debt. to solve the problem, hers decorated the fans with his own writing and calligraphy. fan inventory immediately became more valuable and quickly depleted. the business owner was able to pay off the debt.
of course, there are no stories that tell the adventures of Chinese fans.
but several famous people from history and mythology were known to carry them as personal emblems.
Zhuge Liang, the infamous military strategist of the Four Kingdoms era, was well known for carrying a feather fan wherever he went. this can be seen depicted in movies, comics, and even computer games.
zhongli quan, a member of the beloved 8 immortals, has the fan as his personal emblem. you would see him holding one in paintings, sculptures, and figurines. sometimes it’s the folding fan and sometimes it’s the feather fan. this is why zealot is sometimes associated with officer rank, since quan was an officer.
The Bull Demon King, a prominent character in the classic novel Journey to the West, has a weapon that is a gigantic round palm-shaped fan that summons the power of supernatural wind to blow away enemies in battle.
The fan also makes countless appearances in Chinese movies and cultural TV drama series. They are usually worn by someone educated and with a good demeanor.
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It is understandable that the Chinese fan has little practical purpose in modern times.
We have ceiling fans, wall fans and air conditioners to cool the home. then we have portable motorized fans powered by rechargeable batteries that we carry with us.
But the Chinese fan can often be found as display items in homes. especially those with an oriental interior design theme.
stand on a stand like a ru yi or affix to a wall for display like a painting.
The symbolism of the Chinese fan is primarily associated with authority and status.
but the artwork that is painted on them can also bring a combination of other symbolism.
When the artwork conveys wealth, it would be appropriate to place it in the places of wealth. when they communicate the philosophy, the location can be in the academic places within the house. when they appeal to longevity, then it is appropriate to display them in places of health.
If there is no clarity on the specific meanings your Chinese fan is meant to convey, place them in the living room or study room.
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