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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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Chinese Watercolor Fan Painting on Wood Stand
Oct 02, 9:00 AM EDT
Chinese Watercolor Fan Painting on Wood Stand
by Montgomery Auction
Est: $600- $800
$2001 Bid
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GROUP OF THREE SMALL BAMBOO FAN FRAME
Oct 02, 11:00 AM EDT
GROUP OF THREE SMALL BAMBOO FAN FRAME
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $70- $105
$350 Bids
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GROUP OF THREE SMALL BAMBOO FAN FRAME
Oct 02, 11:00 AM EDT
GROUP OF THREE SMALL BAMBOO FAN FRAME
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $70- $105
$350 Bids
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GROUP OF THREE SMALL BAMBOO FAN FRAME
Oct 02, 11:00 AM EDT
GROUP OF THREE SMALL BAMBOO FAN FRAME
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $70- $105
$350 Bids
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GROUP OF THREE SMALL BAMBOO FAN FRAME
Oct 02, 11:00 AM EDT
GROUP OF THREE SMALL BAMBOO FAN FRAME
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $70- $105
$350 Bids
A Chinse fan
Oct 23, 2:00 PM AEDT
A Chinse fan
by Arts Of World Auctioneer and Valuer
Est: AUD1,200- AUD1,500
AUD6000 Bids
Großer Fächer/ large fan
Oct 05, 2:00 PM CEST
Großer Fächer/ large fan
by Kunstauktionshaus Günther
Est: €0- €0
€100 Bids
CHINESE FAN IN VERY FINELY CARVED BONE EARLY 19TH CENTURY
Oct 15, 11:00 AM CEST
CHINESE FAN IN VERY FINELY CARVED BONE EARLY 19TH CENTURY
by Goldfield Auction
Est: €250- €500
€2410 Bids
INSCRIBED AND SIGNED YANG BORUN(1837-1911). CHINESE PAINTED ON PAPER FAN.H074.
Oct 13, 11:00 AM EDT
INSCRIBED AND SIGNED YANG BORUN(1837-1911). CHINESE PAINTED ON PAPER FAN.H074.
by Metropolitan Auction of Art Inc.
Est: $900- $2,000
$3000 Bids
INSCRIBED AND SIGNED SHA FU(1831-1906). CHINESE PAINTED ON PAPER FAN.H075.
Oct 13, 11:00 AM EDT
INSCRIBED AND SIGNED SHA FU(1831-1906). CHINESE PAINTED ON PAPER FAN.H075.
by Metropolitan Auction of Art Inc.
Est: $900- $2,000
$3000 Bids
A CHINESE PAINTED ON PAPER FAN.H078.
Oct 13, 11:00 AM EDT
A CHINESE PAINTED ON PAPER FAN.H078.
by Metropolitan Auction of Art Inc.
Est: $600- $1,000
$2000 Bids
A FRAMED 19TH CENTURY CHINESE KINGFISHER FEATHER FAN. 68 cm x 42 cm.
Oct 11, 9:30 AM BST
A FRAMED 19TH CENTURY CHINESE KINGFISHER FEATHER FAN. 68 cm x 42 cm.
by Hannam's Auctioneers
Est: £50- £75
£300 Bids
SHALLOW DROP COLOR FAN LI AND LADY XI SHI STORY PLAQUE
Oct 15, 3:00 PM PDT
SHALLOW DROP COLOR FAN LI AND LADY XI SHI STORY PLAQUE
by Mega International Auction
Est: $2,500- $3,000
$1,8000 Bids
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GILT SILVER CAST MAGPIE PATTERN FAN
Oct 02, 10:30 AM EDT
GILT SILVER CAST MAGPIE PATTERN FAN
by Empire Auction House
Est: $500- $700
$3000 Bids
A Chinese Cedar Fan
Oct 02, 1:00 PM EDT
A Chinese Cedar Fan
by Designer Homes of Central Florida
Est: $40- $400
$400 Bids
Lot of 2 Chinese Fans
Oct 02, 1:00 PM EDT
Lot of 2 Chinese Fans
by Designer Homes of Central Florida
Est: $25- $250
$250 Bids
Very Rare Chinese Camphor Wood Export Fan
Oct 02, 1:00 PM EDT
Very Rare Chinese Camphor Wood Export Fan
by Designer Homes of Central Florida
Est: $500- $5,000
$5000 Bids
ABANICO "DE LAS MIL CARAS". CHINA, FLES. DEL S.XIX.
Oct 11, 5:00 PM CEST
ABANICO "DE LAS MIL CARAS". CHINA, FLES. DEL S.XIX.
by Aletheia Subastas
Est: €60- €100
€600 Bids
A group of ten fans 扇子十把 20th century 二十世纪
Oct 18, 10:00 AM EDT
A group of ten fans 扇子十把 20th century 二十世纪
by Freeman's
Est: $800- $1,200
$4000 Bids
A paper fan, China, Qing Dynasty, 1800s
Oct 12, 10:00 AM CEST
A paper fan, China, Qing Dynasty, 1800s
by Cambi Casa d'Aste
Est: €300- €500
€3000 Bids
A Chinese Qing Dynasty export lacquer gr
Oct 07, 10:00 AM BST
A Chinese Qing Dynasty export lacquer gr
by Kinghams Auctioneers
Est: £400- £600
£2200 Bids
A Chinese Qing Dynasty export lacquer br
Oct 07, 10:00 AM BST
A Chinese Qing Dynasty export lacquer br
by Kinghams Auctioneers
Est: £100- £200
£600 Bids
A Chinese Qing Dynasty export sandalwood
Oct 07, 10:00 AM BST
A Chinese Qing Dynasty export sandalwood
by Kinghams Auctioneers
Est: £300- £400
£1800 Bids
Pair of Chinese Black Lacquer Fans w/ Mother of Pearl Inlay
Oct 08, 9:00 AM EDT
Pair of Chinese Black Lacquer Fans w/ Mother of Pearl Inlay
by Case Antiques, Inc. Auctions & Appraisals
Est: $200- $250
$1000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Fans


Kinghams Auctioneers

Kinghams Auctioneers

William's Auctions, LLC

William's Auctions, LLC

Metropolitan Auction of Art Inc.

Metropolitan Auction of Art Inc.