Loading Spinner

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

See all items

A Chinese lacquered fan depicting figures, Width 50cm, in box
Jun 02, 7:00 PM AEST
A Chinese lacquered fan depicting figures, Width 50cm, in box
by Lawsons
Est: AUD1,200- AUD1,600
AUD605 Bids
A Chinese lacquered fan depicting birds and flowers, Width 48cm
Jun 02, 7:00 PM AEST
A Chinese lacquered fan depicting birds and flowers, Width 48cm
by Lawsons
Est: AUD1,200- AUD1,500
AUD504 Bids
A Chinese lacquered fan depicting figures, Width 52cm, in box
Jun 02, 7:00 PM AEST
A Chinese lacquered fan depicting figures, Width 52cm, in box
by Lawsons
Est: AUD1,200- AUD1,500
AUD604 Bids
An 1800s Chinese grouse and pheasant feather, tortoise shell fan, Width 42cm
Jun 02, 7:00 PM AEST
An 1800s Chinese grouse and pheasant feather, tortoise shell fan, Width 42cm
by Lawsons
Est: AUD1,200- AUD1,500
AUD253 Bids
A Qing Dynasty Canton lacquered sandalwood
Jun 02, 7:00 PM AEST
A Qing Dynasty Canton lacquered sandalwood
by Lawsons
Est: AUD1,400- AUD2,000
AUD202 Bids
A Qing Dynasty Chinese silver fan, Width 39cm
Jun 02, 7:00 PM AEST
A Qing Dynasty Chinese silver fan, Width 39cm
by Lawsons
Est: AUD1,200- AUD1,500
AUD202 Bids
Chinese "thousand faces” fan, last decades of the 19th Century.
May 23, 4:00 PM CEST
Chinese "thousand faces” fan, last decades of the 19th Century.
by Balclis
Est: €1,000- €1,200
€1,0001 Bid
A Chinese sandalwood fan, Width 43cm
Jun 02, 7:00 PM AEST
A Chinese sandalwood fan, Width 43cm
by Lawsons
Est: AUD1,200- AUD1,600
AUD151 Bid
A hand painted fan depicting birds and flowers, Width 60cm
Jun 02, 5:00 PM AEST
A hand painted fan depicting birds and flowers, Width 60cm
by Lawsons
Est: AUD1,200- AUD1,500
AUD151 Bid
QI BAISHI, ATTRIBUTED TO, LONGEVITY PEACH
May 21, 10:00 AM SGT
QI BAISHI, ATTRIBUTED TO, LONGEVITY PEACH
by China Arts Auction
Est: $1,500- $2,500
$7000 Bids
XU BEIHONG'S FU SHU PICTURE FAN
Jun 01, 3:00 PM PDT
XU BEIHONG'S FU SHU PICTURE FAN
by Mega International Auction
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$1,4000 Bids
Chinese fan with painted feathers leaves, 19th Century.
May 23, 4:00 PM CEST
Chinese fan with painted feathers leaves, 19th Century.
by Balclis
Est: €300- €350
€3000 Bids
Gilded Silver Dragon and Phoenix Pattern Fan
May 30, 9:00 AM EDT
Gilded Silver Dragon and Phoenix Pattern Fan
by YaShawn Auction House
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$5000 Bids
CHINESE LACQUER FAN, CANTON, 19TH CENTURY
May 23, 4:30 PM CEST
CHINESE LACQUER FAN, CANTON, 19TH CENTURY
by Templum Fine Art Auctions
Est: €300- €375
€1900 Bids
Chinese "thousand faces” fan, late 19th Century.
May 23, 4:00 PM CEST
Chinese "thousand faces” fan, late 19th Century.
by Balclis
Est: €400- €450
€4000 Bids
Chinese bone hand fan
May 31, 3:00 PM CEST
Chinese bone hand fan
by Bertolami Fine Art s.r.l.
Est: €250- €350
€1800 Bids
4 Japanese & Chinese Fans
May 29, 11:00 AM EDT
4 Japanese & Chinese Fans
by Willow Auction House
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
QI BAISHI, ATTRIBUTED TO, FLOWER AND GRASS BUG
May 21, 10:00 AM SGT
QI BAISHI, ATTRIBUTED TO, FLOWER AND GRASS BUG
by China Arts Auction
Est: $1,500- $2,500
$7000 Bids
QI BAISHI, ATTRIBUTED TO, CHERRY
May 21, 10:00 AM SGT
QI BAISHI, ATTRIBUTED TO, CHERRY
by China Arts Auction
Est: $1,500- $2,500
$7000 Bids
CANTONESE CHINESE FAN, 19TH CENTURY
May 23, 4:30 PM CEST
CANTONESE CHINESE FAN, 19TH CENTURY
by Templum Fine Art Auctions
Est: €400- €425
€1900 Bids
CHINESE FAN, 19TH - 20TH CENTURY
May 23, 4:30 PM CEST
CHINESE FAN, 19TH - 20TH CENTURY
by Templum Fine Art Auctions
Est: €400- €425
€1900 Bids
Carved Chinese Fan
May 29, 11:00 AM EDT
Carved Chinese Fan
by Willow Auction House
Est: $400- $600
$2000 Bids
A pair of old Tibetan green, colorful, Fan Hong, entangled branches, lotus, and painted golden bowls
May 25, 9:00 PM CST
A pair of old Tibetan green, colorful, Fan Hong, entangled branches, lotus, and painted golden bowls
by Chongzheng Auction
Est: 2,000 元- 1,800,000 元
1,000 元0 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Fans


Lawsons

Lawsons

Balclis

Balclis

Templum Fine Art Auctions

Templum Fine Art Auctions

China Arts Auction

China Arts Auction