Thoughts on Folding Fans.
The folding fan has become a rare sight today, excluding period costume gatherings, fanatics in Chinese or Japanese culture and fashion, or on a wall of a Chinese restaurant. Yet, most people are surprised to know about the history of how the folding fan came into being. The folding fan was thought to be invented around the 8th century in Japan. Initially the fan was constructed from strips of cedar wood strung together and were used as notepads (some go to the extent that the folding fan was the ancient version of a smartphone). By the Heian Period (794-1185), the design that the world is familiar with was developed.
Even with the new re-designed and improved folding fan, they were not used to bring in cool breezes. Fans were used as a communication tool, subtly to express inner emotions, at times poems were written and sent between lovers, and special mannerisms using the fan were created.
As trade expanded, the folding fan was introduced in Asia and in turn into Europe and distinct designs and cultures were born as the folding fan became popular. Yet seeing the folding fan from the west back to its homeland in Japan, it is interesting to see how the folding fan evolved simultaneously throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, where both cultures valued the folding fan as a key accessory and both used the fan as ways of communication.