When Westerners think of Japanese culture, beautifully illustrated Japanese fans are one of the first things that come to mind. In fact, the use of fans has permeated Japanese culture throughout its history. Uchiwa have been made of wood; lacquered leather; and paper stretched over bamboo blades that come together at the base to form a handle. Ogi were originally made of small boards of wood tied together, and later of paper or fabric glued onto wood or ivory blades.
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The Story of the Chinese Fan
Antique Fans | History of Fans
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History of the Fan
Many travelers have picked up a fan or two to beat the heat, or as beautiful souvenirs. From empresses to the poorest villagers, fans have been part of Chinese culture for thousands of years. Archaeologists excavated the oldest known fan in Asia, from 2nd century BC, from the Mawangdui tomb in Hunan province. Made of woven bamboo, they were most likely used by royalty while they traveled outside their palaces.
Fans have a long history in Japan, and according to legend, Japan is the homeland of the modern folding fan. The earliest evidence of the fan in Japan was discovered in the wall paintings of a burial mound dating from the 6th century AD in Fukuoka. These depicted the Chinese style ceremonial fan. Chinese influence was strong in Japan during this period and these fans were obviously modelled on the fans of the Han dynasty in China.