Saturday, June 27, 2009

Shop For Cultured, Beautiful, High-Quality Chinese Fans In Beijing

By Andy Lao

China has a long history of making fans. Archaeological evidence shows that the Chinese tradition of making fans goes back to as early as the Zhou dynasty, over 3,000 years ago. Even back then, ancient artisans had already reached a very high level of skill. Visit the fantastic local shops in Beijing to buy some authentic, exquisite Chinese fans.

The development of fans made of silk, feathers, paper, wood, fabric, bones, and ivory came throughout Chinese history. Initially used by the upper class to symbolize their power, fans gradually became a popular item used by people from all segments of society. In the Ming dynasty, Chinese fans were introduced to Europe and became an instant hit.

Usually decorated with traditional paintings or calligraphy on both sides, the artistic value of a fan is prized far more than its practical function. A Chinese fan has a very high value if it is made of a precious material, has an beautiful shape, and is decorated with a piece of work done by a famous artist.

Round fans and folding fans are two main types of Chinese fans. Invented earlier than folding fans, round fans have a simpler design: just a round, flat surface placed on a wooden handle. Folding fans became immensely popular in China during the Ming dynasty, after their introduction from Japan. They are made of a number of thin pieces that revolve around a pivot.

Different regions in China have their own local styles of fans. The most famous are the "Four Major Fans" of China: sandalwood fans from Jiangsu province, pyrography fans from Guangdong province, bamboo fans from Sichuan province, and silk fans from Zhejiang province.

Sandalwood fans made in Jiangsu province are known for their deep, mind-refreshing fragrance that can last a long time. After being stored for 10 years, they can still give off a pleasant smell. People like to put one such fan together with their clothes to keep them from being damaged by insects. The beautiful pictures carved on the wood are also very attractive.

Pyrography fans weren't invented until late in the Qing dynasty. With a handle usually made of glass, one such fan features unique images burned into the surface by a heated iron. Pyrography fans are very popular with art collectors, because their images will never fade.

Bamboo fans are prized for their delicate body, thin surface, and exquisite design. Most of them are created in the shape of a peach and have handles made of ivory or ox bone. They are so incredibly exquisite, some regard them as a national treasure of China.

Silk fans are produced in Zhejinag province, and are known for their light body, elegant design, and smooth surface. Owning one such fan shows a fine taste in classic Chinese art.

Fans have long been an integral part of Chinese culture. In earlier times, people of different social status and gender were allowed to use different types of fans. Ancient Chinese women, according to tradition, should hide their faces with a fan when meeting strangers. Over time, round fans became a symbol of feminine beauty and grace, and were even nicknamed "Hiding Face."

Beijing is a place with many small, specialized shops that offers high-quality Chinese fans. It is best to buy fans in these shops, because even though a lot of mass-produced fans are also available in the market, they usually have low quality and can easily fall apart. You can find a personal shopper or shopping assistant in Beijing to help find the right shops for you.

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