The Art of Folding Fans Appealing to Both Scholars and Laymen
Fans first emerged in the Chinese history with the founding and evolution of hierarchy in the feudal society as a symbol of imperial power as opposed to a cooling tool for daily use. They later got out of the exclusive possession of royal families and became accessible to commoners thanks to the changes of society, development of economy and revolutions of people’s ideology.
The mid-Ming dynasty (1368-1644 AD) of China witnessed the popularity of folding fans, which evolved into an identity symbol for dignitaries and nobilities, an accessory for the literati to adorn their elegant life, and a carrier for artists and crafters to express their talents and craftsmanship.
Modern Folding Fan Guards with Carved Painting by Lin Zhaolu. Born in Suzhou of China’s eastern Jiangsu province, Lin Zhaolu (1887-1966 AD), was known for achieving fine blade work and elegant style in bamboo carving while excelling in carving reproductions of inscriptions on ancient bronzeware, especially stoneware, and also good at copying bamboo slip or oracle bone inscriptions.
The back. In light of the principle “design before paint, and paint in one breath once design is finalized”, burnt painting can create a 3D visual effect by burning multiple layers and rich colors, while realizing the techniques of traditional Chinese painting such as outlining, dotting, shading, line drawing, etc. That’s why not only the style of traditional Chinese painting can be maintained, but also a real-life illustration can be achieved through burnt painting.
Republican-China Fan Guards with Bo Luo Lacquer Coating. These guards have a coating of bo luo lacquer, pineapple lacquer literally and alias rhino skin lacquer, also known as tiger fur lacquer or birch lacquer in North China, which is a mixture of raw lacquer, turquoise, cinnabar, coral, etc. Usually in colors of overlapping red, black and yellow, bo luo lacquer can leads to a texture similar to that created by the technique of “scraping bo luo lacquer”. According to Recordings of Lacquerware by Huang Cheng of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644 AD), “rhino skin lacquerware features patterns similar to clouds, floral medallions, and pine bark grains. Lately there has been an emergence of a kind of red rhino skin lacquerware, shining with the lustrous and smooth surface”.
Modern Folding Fan Guards and Ribs with Round Head and “Yumen” Holes. Openwork holes on folding fan guards feature various shapes and arrangements, among which such a type with one pattern group appearing repetitiously in rows on the guards is called “yumen” holes. Sometimes these holes would be inlaid with metal filigree or silk fabric. Materials such as bamboo or ebony were often adopted for ribs and guards that were to bear such openwork-hole decorations.
The guards of this folding fan went through a process literally called “scarping red lacquer” in China, also known as “carving red lacquer”. Often applied to a wood or metal base, such a technique involved the following procedures, first, coating the base in up to one or two hundred layers of red lacquer, or 80 or 90 layers at least, creating line drawing based on pre-determined design when the lacquer was half-dried, and carving patterns of birds, flowers, figures, landscapes, etc., in line with the drawing, and finally scraping unnecessary red lacquer on the surface.
Modern Fan Pouch with Gold Couching Embroidery. As one of the Su Embroidery techniques, gold couching falls into the stripe-making category. It means that via gold couching technique, patterns would be made of by arranging single-strand or double-strands gold threads, with double-strands more commonly-seen, in parallel and then fixed onto one side of the foundation fabric instead of passing through the fabric.
Qing-dynasty Fan Pouch with Seed-stitch Crane Medallions. When applying seed stitches, as one of the traditional technique of the Su Embroidery, the crafters usually make a loop around the needle tip after beginning a stitch and then pull the loop all the way down to the fabric by pulling the needle to the opposite direction and then fix the loop onto the fabric by passing the needle across the fabric, creating seed-like dots on the foundation fabric, hence the name.
Seen as an evolution of the ancient chain stitches, seed stitches show evidence of earliest use on the embroidery unearthed from the Eastern Han tombs in Noyon uul of Mongolia, and are still applied as the main embroidery technique by ethnic minority groups such as Miao, Dong, Shui, etc., living in the southwest of China. And a new category named “linen-yarn or horsetail-hair outlined seed stitch embroidery” was even developed based on the combination of seed stitches with the linen-yarn and horsetail-hair embroidery techniques in these areas.
When applying applique embroidery technique, the craftsmen would first cut out applique based on pre-design, and then sew the edges of them with various stitches onto the foundation fabric, sometimes padding the applique with cloth, silk threads, cotton wadding, etc., so as to create a relief-style pattern. Simple to practice, applique embroidery usually leads to a distinctive and decorum style with patterns composed of applique blocks.