Chinese Fan Art & Fan Culture

In ancient times, Chinese used plant leaves or bird feather as a fan to create a breeze in summer. This was the most primitive form of the fan. The first real fan was made back in the era of Yao and Shun thousands of years ago. The fan has constituted an important part of Chinese art and culture since then.

Initially, the fan functioned as a tool to generate a current of air in hot weather or to help start a fire. Now electric fans such as ceiling fans have taken the place. Other functions of the fan remain.

Fan Art

Fans became to catch the attention of ancient Chinese artists unknowingly. Thereafter, a unique fine art gradually took shape in the history of Chinese fine art. Fan art usually includes Chinese calligraphy, paintings, or poems on the sectors. Special skills are needed to write or paint on them subject to different types of fans and different materials used. It’s much more difficult than doing the same thing on a piece of smooth paper. One of the most favorite types among calligraphers is the folded fan with paper sectors.

Fan Ornament

Partly because of its history and partly because of its unique shape, the fan elicits the feeling that is associated with the Orient (ancient and mysterious), when used as indoor decoration or gift item. Chinese have the tradition of using fans as ornaments. Small as a coin, huge as a door, fans are made in different sizes and different colors to meet the needs of decoration. Other ornaments of Chinese styles, such as the Chinese knot, the green jade, and the Spring Festival picture, are often combined.

Fan Collection

The value of fans depends mainly on the materials used, the handicraftsmanship, the type of art used on them, and the length of time spent. Feather, paper, jade, bamboo and silk have all been used as ideal materials to make fans. Ancient Chinese even made iron fans to serve as deadly weapons in Chinese martial arts. Fans made by renowned craftsmen are often characterized by exquisite designs and subtle handiwork, thus become favorites of collectors. Fans with masterpiece fine art like calligraphy or paintings are even more valuable.


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