Chinese Fans

Contrary to its contemporary function, Chinese fans were not originally created to cool people in high heat. The earliest excavated fan has been dated back to the 2nd century B.C., and was most likely used by royalty when they needed to leave their palace and would obscure the view of the carriage. Since then, fans have become a significant symbol within Chinese culture.

Traditionally, Chinese hand fans were fixed, not folding, and often contained paintings or calligraphy. The original fan was a circular shape, which was said to have been modeled after the full moon and signifying unity. The first calligraphy on fans is believed to have appeared in the Jing Dynasty when calligrapher Wang Xizhi painted five characters on each fan a woman selling them. To her surprise, the fans were quickly sold and for a much higher price than she had anticipated.

Aristocrats often used Chinese fans to display wealth and sophistication, but fans have evolved to suit different uses. They were given as gifts, taken as props for theatrical performances, and even adapted for use in martial arts. Nowadays, fans are still used in traditional dance performances and are common everyday objects and souvenirs. They are typically decorated with pieces of literature and scenes that evoke serenity, romance, peace, prosperity, and happiness.


Quick Facts

  • The folding fan is rumored to have originated in Japan in the 9th century A.D., modeled after the folding wings of a bat. The Chinese believe that the folding hand fan was invented in China, inspired by a woman fanning her face during a festival
  • The act of fanning oneself with a hand fan was often used in theater as an expression by scholars of deep thought or flirtation by higher class women of China
  • Chinese fans have been made from feathers, silk, and paper, and many calligraphers and artists devoted their lives to their decoration

Recommended Items at Auction

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A tempera on paper Chinese fan, 19th century
Oct 26, 2:30 PM CEST
A tempera on paper Chinese fan, 19th century
by Bolli & Romiti s.r.l
Est: €100- €150
€1502 Bids
Three large pictorial fans from the 1890
Oct 21, 1:00 PM BST
Three large pictorial fans from the 1890
by Kinghams Auctioneers
Est: £40- £60
£251 Bid
1960's Boston Celtic Fan With Paper Wrapping
Oct 18, 5:00 PM EDT
1960's Boston Celtic Fan With Paper Wrapping
by Saco River Auction
Est: $30- $40
$51 Bid
Decorative fan showing a dragon & tiger. 34”x61”
Oct 20, 9:00 AM EDT
Decorative fan showing a dragon & tiger. 34”x61”
by Apple Tree Auction Center
Est: $0- $0
$51 Bid
Achinse fan
Oct 24, 1:00 PM AEDT
Achinse fan
by Arts Of World Auctioneer and Valuer
Est: AUD1,200- AUD1,500
AUD6000 Bids
Two vintage decorative fans
Oct 20, 11:00 AM CDT
Two vintage decorative fans
by Jaremos
Est: $50- $150
$300 Bids
Y PHOEBE ANNA TRAQUAIR (SCOTTISH 1852-1936) FAN, 'THE ISLAND OF THE FAY'
Oct 21, 10:00 AM BST
Y PHOEBE ANNA TRAQUAIR (SCOTTISH 1852-1936) FAN, 'THE ISLAND OF THE FAY'
by Lyon & Turnbull
Est: £3,000- £5,000
£1,5000 Bids
WENG TONGSHU CALLIGRAPHY FAN
Oct 22, 9:00 AM EDT
WENG TONGSHU CALLIGRAPHY FAN
by Eden Fine Antiques Galleries LLC
Est: $800- $1,200
$4000 Bids
THE GOLDEN ROAD TO UNLIMITED DEVOTION (…) GRATEFUL DEAD FAN CLUB". (1967). Cold
Nov 16, 1:30 PM CET
THE GOLDEN ROAD TO UNLIMITED DEVOTION (…) GRATEFUL DEAD FAN CLUB". (1967). Cold
by Burgersdijk & Niermans
Est: €120- €150
€1200 Bids
SCUOLA EUROPEA DEL XIX SECOLO A) FEMALE FIGURE WITH UMBRELLA B) WOMAN WITH FAN
Oct 19, 3:30 PM CEST
SCUOLA EUROPEA DEL XIX SECOLO A) FEMALE FIGURE WITH UMBRELLA B) WOMAN WITH FAN
by Casa d'aste ARCADIA
Est: €600- €800
€6000 Bids
Chinese framed fan with calligraphy
Oct 18, 2:00 PM PDT
Chinese framed fan with calligraphy
by International Auction Gallery
Est: $80- $150
$200 Bids
NON
Oct 19, 7:00 PM PDT
NON
by DotDot Art Gallery Inc
Est: $400- $600
$1000 Bids
LOTTO DI QUATTORDICI VENTAGLI - LOT OF FOURTEEN FANS
Oct 22, 6:30 PM CEST
LOTTO DI QUATTORDICI VENTAGLI - LOT OF FOURTEEN FANS
by Galleria Sarno
Est: €400- €500
€2400 Bids
LOTTO DI SEI VENTAGLI - LOT OF SIX FANS
Oct 23, 6:30 PM CEST
LOTTO DI SEI VENTAGLI - LOT OF SIX FANS
by Galleria Sarno
Est: €300- €400
€1800 Bids
CAROL CHANNING FAN ART PORTRAIT
Oct 21, 9:00 AM PDT
CAROL CHANNING FAN ART PORTRAIT
by Abell Auction
Est: $50- $100
$500 Bids
HUANG BINHONG: COLOR INK 'LANDSCAPE' FAN PAINTING
Oct 23, 4:00 PM PDT
HUANG BINHONG: COLOR INK 'LANDSCAPE' FAN PAINTING
by California Asian Art Auction Gallery USA
Est: $2,000- $4,000
$1,6000 Bids
Fan-shaped Blue-and-white Ornament
Oct 26, 9:00 AM EDT
Fan-shaped Blue-and-white Ornament
by Yakon Auctions
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$3000 Bids
A CHINESE 'PLUM BLOSSOM' FAN PAINTING
Oct 23, 4:00 PM PDT
A CHINESE 'PLUM BLOSSOM' FAN PAINTING
by California Asian Art Auction Gallery USA
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$8000 Bids
Framed Chinese w/c on fan by Bin Hong Huang
Oct 18, 2:00 PM PDT
Framed Chinese w/c on fan by Bin Hong Huang
by International Auction Gallery
Est: $4,000- $7,000
$2,0000 Bids
A DOUCAI GLAZED PORCELAIN LANDSCAPE FAN
Oct 21, 8:00 PM EDT
A DOUCAI GLAZED PORCELAIN LANDSCAPE FAN
by Ingenuity Gallery
Est: $3,000- $4,000
$5000 Bids
A CARVED WHITE JADE FAN HANDLE
Oct 21, 8:00 PM EDT
A CARVED WHITE JADE FAN HANDLE
by Ingenuity Gallery
Est: $5,000- $7,000
$1,0000 Bids
A FAN
Oct 27, 7:00 PM WEST
A FAN
by Renascimento
Est: €100- €150
€1000 Bids
A CHINESE FAN
Oct 27, 7:00 PM WEST
A CHINESE FAN
by Renascimento
Est: €450- €650
€4400 Bids
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Abanico realizada en madera lacada con escenas cortesanas. China.
Oct 26, 4:30 PM CEST
Abanico realizada en madera lacada con escenas cortesanas. China.
by Arte Subastas Bilbao
Est: €0- €0
€1900 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Fans


Kinghams Auctioneers

Kinghams Auctioneers

Lyon & Turnbull

Lyon & Turnbull

Renascimento

Renascimento

Designer Homes of Central Florida

Designer Homes of Central Florida