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I. Fans.

Wang Ch`ung speaks of fans in two places (Vol. II pp. 35 and 317), calling them by the two different names which they have in Chinese:--- ### shan and ### sha. The dictionary Fang-yen ### ascribed by many to Yang Hsiung of the 1st century B.C. states that the expression shan was in use in the regions west from the Pass, which probably means Tung-kuan where the three provinces Shansi, Shensi, and Honan meet, and the expression sha, east of it. 1

The Pên-tsao kang-mu infers from the character ### that in ancient times fans were made of feathers ###, and that only later on people also used paper and bamboo for their fabrication, whence the combination with ### "bamboo" in the character ###. The first conclusion seems to be wrong, for the primary signification of ### is not a fan, but the fold or the leaf of a folding door, a "Thür-Flügel," "l'aile d'une porte." The character is a logical aggregate ### in which ###, not ### is the chief meaning. 2 The meaning fan is a derivate. It is something resembling the fold of a door in so far as it may be moved to and fro, and thereby causes wind.

In Chinese literature, and in the modern language the word ### shan is by far the commoner of the two.

The use of fans must have been common in China in the Chou dynasty, for our literary evidence reaches to that period. We read in Kuan Tse XIV, 9 r. about a prohibition of fans and straw hats. 3 That would carry us back to the 7th century B.C.Pao Pu Tse of the 4th century B.C. says that as long as the wind does not abate, fans are of no use, and that while the sun does not appear, candles cannot be extinguished 4Huai NanTse XVIII, 16 r. compares certain people to those digging a well after a fire and using a fan, while wearing a fur-coat. 5Tung Chung Shu (2nd cent. B.C.) in his Ch`un-ch`iu fan-lu states that the dragon attracts rain, and that the fan expels heat. 6

In poetry the fan has been sung of many a me, and the T`u-shu chi ch`êng and other encyclopedias contain quite a collection of such poems. The oldest and the best perhaps is the famous one on a silk fan round as the full moon by Pan Ch`ieh Yü,7 aunt to the historian Pan Ku, who himself wrote some fine verses on bamboo fans. 8

The material fans were made of was feathers, especially those of pheasants, peacocks, kingfishers, swans, & c., bamboo splints, rush-leaves, palm-leaves, 9 silk, paper, bark, and ivory. I doubt whether the first fans were really made of feathers as some authors maintain. A priori it is more likely that the leaves of the fan-palm were first used as fans, and that artificial fans came later.

Of the celebrated Chu Ko Liang it has been recorded that at a battle he gave his signals with a fan of white feathers, and that his army advanced or stopped accordingly. 10

Fans were often ornamented with precious things such as mother-ofpearl. Chao Fei Yen, the successful rival of the afore-mentioned Pan Ch`ieh Yü, who was raised to the rank of an empress by the Han emperor Ch`êng Ti, is said to have been in possession of fans of mother-of-pearl, of kingfisher feathers, and of peacock feathers. 11

Sometimes the handle of a fan was made of jade or precious stones. In 477 A.D. the empress-dowager presented the vicious emperor Fei Ti or Ts`ang Wu Wang of the Liu Sung dynasty, a mere boy, with a fan made of feathers with a jade handle. The emperor was so much displeased with this gift, because the feathers and the handle were not ornamented, that he resolved to have the donor poisoned. He had already ordered his chief physician to prepare the poison, when he was prevented by his attendants from carrying out his wicked design. 12

Silk and paper fans were often inscribed with poetry, or some picture, especially landscapes, was painted upon them. This custom prevails up to the present day. Persons proficient in calligraphy are often requested by their friends to write some lines on a fan. The Nan-shih relates a characteristic anecdote:---Chêng Hsin, the son of Prince Hung of Lin-chuan, did not study as a boy. He used to carry a white round fan. The Prince of Hsiang-tung wrote eight characters on the fan making fun of its bearer, who did not understand the meaning and used his fan as before. 13

The usual forms of fans were round like a disc, quadrangular, hexagonal, or shaped like a wing. The people of Wu ### are believed to have been the first who cut off the wings of birds and used them as fans.

In some old sources the term ### "waist fan" occurs, e. g. in the History of the Southern Ch`i dynasty, 14 479-501 A.D. This seems to mean a fan hung up at the girdle. Pfizmaier calls it a "Lendenfächer," a rather clumsy expression. This fan cannot be a folding fan as some commentator suggested, for in the 5th century folding fans were not yet known in China.

The common name for a folding fan is ### chê-shan or ### chê-tieh shan, a fan that may be folded together. Another name is ### sa-shan, a fan that may be opened. The old name is said to have been ### chü-t`ou-shan, a fan the heads of whose ribs may be joined together. This variety of fan seems not to have been invented in China, but to be of foreign origin. All authorities are unanimous in stating that the Chinese first became acquainted with folding fans by a Korean embassy, opinions differ only about the time. 15 The ### Yu-huan chi-wên, a reliable source of the 13th century, records that in the 9th month of the 6th year Hsüan-ho = 1124, Korea sent two envoys Li Tse Tê and Chin Fu Chê to the Chinese court, who at a private audience brought with them three boxes of pine-wood fans and two folding fans. 16 A verse of the famous Su Tung P`o, 1036-1101, and some other poems of the same epoch prove that from the beginning of the Sung dynasty in 960 A.D. folding fans were at least known in China.

Su Tung P`o says that "the Korean fans of white pine wood, when spread out, cover more than a foot, and folded up, they only measure two fingers." 17

But though known, folding fans were not yet in vogue at this early date, and it was not before the reign of the Ming emperor Yung Lo (1403-1405) that their use became common, and they soon supplanted the stiff fans. Yung Lo, delighted with the handiness of the fans, brought by the Koreans as tribute, ordered Chinese artisans to imitate them. At first it was not fashionable to use this new kind of fan, and only courtesans liked to carry them, but after some time honest women also discarded the round fan in favour of the more convenient folding fan.

It is mentioned that these folding fans are manufactured by the Japanese likewise, who make the ribs of black bamboo and bespatter the paper with gold. The author of the ### Pêng-chuang hsü-lu tells us that the foreign missionary Matteo Ricci ### presented him with four Japanese folding fans, measuring not more than a finger when folded, very light, but strong and beautiful, and causing much wind.

In the first place the Chinese use their fans as we do for creating a light draught to cool themselves, but they also employ them as shades, holding them up towards the sun, and to protect themselves from wind and dust. In China, not only women make use of fans, but even soldiers and officers may be seen with them, and Europeans in China soon learn to follow their example.

Fans are often given by friends as a present, notably those with autographs or paintings by their own hand, a custom even followed by the emperor who may honour some subject by the gift of a fan. Some instances are given in the Yü-hai.18 The Yün-hsien tsa-chi19 mentions the fact that the people of Loyang would at the dragon-boat festival present each other with fans supposed to avert sickness. 20

At certain times the use of certain kinds of fans was forbidden by sumptuary laws, or at least subject to some regulations. We learn that the Han very much appreciated quadrangular bamboo fans, 21 and that according to their ordinances the emperor took a feather fan in summer, and a silk fan in winter. 22 The latter was probably merely decorative, whereas the feather fan produces much wind. In the time of Han Wu Ti, princes and marquises were not allowed to use fans made of pheasant feathers, and all below a duke had to use round fans. 23 In 402 A.D. the Chin emperor An Ti forbade the use of silk fans and gambling. 24

There are some fan-like contrivances also called fans by the Chinese. The Chou-li already mentions great State fans or flabelli, and so does the Liki. They were used in the 10th century B.C. and they may still be seen to-day especially at funeral processions. The Chinese name of these flabelli is ### sha. Couvreur has a drawing under this character. In ancient times they were carried in one of the carriages of the empress to protect her from wind and dust, and at funeral processions. In the Han time they were made of a wooden frame, three feet broad and 2½ feet high, and covered with a white stuff on which were embroidered clouds, vapours, or hatchets. At the funeral of an emperor eight big fans were used, for a great dignitary six, for a prefect four, and for a scholar two (Tschcou Li par E. Biot Vol. II pp. 126, 232). The modern flabelli are made of feathers, of painted cloth, or of wood and provided with a long stick. They are carried by the side of a coffin or a princely carriage, and after the funeral stuck into the ground round the grave.

The punkah, in Chinese ### Fêng-shan "Wind fan," of which the Europeans living in China make an extensive use, is not much appreciated by the Chinese, who seldom have it in their houses. But some kind of a punkah seems to have been known in China at a very early date. We learn from the Hsi-ching tsa-chi, a work of the 6th century, that a clever artisan of Chang-an connected seven fans shaped like big wheels, each having a diameter of ten feet. When they were moved by a man, the whole room became cool. 25

Another instance is given of a fan used for evaporating water and thus reducing the hot temperature. In the house of a certain Wang Yuan Pao there was a very strong skin fan. When during the hot season some guest was invited to dinner, this fan was placed in front of his seat and sprinkled with fresh water. Forthwith a cool breeze came up. As soon as the guest, while the wine was circulating, looked refreshed, the fan was removed. The emperor sent some officer to fetch this fan and have a look at it, but, though it pleased him very much, he did not keep it. He said that this fan was made of dragon skin. 26

This invention, now often used in our modern houses with radiators, was not utilised by the Chinese either. It was one of those good ideas they often had, but which they failed to develop and take advantage of.


1. ###

2. Cf. the explanation given by Wieger, Leçons étymologiques p. 196: ###

3. ### Cf. above p. 450.

4. ###

5. ###

6. ###

7. See my translation in "Bluethen Chinesischer Dichtung," 1899 p. 11.

8. ###.

9. Pfizmaier in his "Denkwürdigkeiten von chinesischen Werkzeugen und Geräten" (Journal of the Wiener Akademie der Wissenschaften 1872, Vol. 72 p. 247-322) mistranslates this expression ### (Livistona) or ### by mallow. Mallows cannot be used for fans.

10. ###

11. ###

12. ###

13. ###

14. ###

15. See the ### chap. 33 p. 13 seq. under ###

16. ###


18. ###

19. ###

20. ###

21. ###

22. ###

23. ###

24. ###

25. ###

26. ###

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IATHPublished by The Institute for Advanced Technology in the Humanities, © Copyright 2003 by Anne Kinney and the University of Virginia