Chinese fans 中国扇子
9. Chinese fans
Fans seem to have special meaning in Chinese culture. I’ve received a number of them as gifts from my Chinese friends. The fans are very pretty. So I assume they are not meant to be used. Also they are too cute for a man like me to use.
Fans used to be a favorite item for women in China. You may have noticed that nearly all female figures in traditional Chinese paintings carry a silk fan. In the movies of the 1930s and 1940s, fans are a very visible article for Shanghai women on the bond. Usually the structure of the fans is made of sand wood, and the faces are made of silk or paper. Because the fans are always scented, women who use them appeared even more attractive. Fans are probably one of the most appropriate expressions of female elegance. Men also use fans. But these fans are usually much bigger. Men’s fans often use valuable materials for that structure and the faces are always painted with plants, landscapes or calligraphy to express the only status and aspirations.
But none of fans I have look the same as what you have just told me. The paintings are also different. Mine are painted with either Beijing Opera masks or Chinese dragons. As a result of open-door policy, fans have become popular again, not for people to use at home, but as a gift for foreigners. However, unlike fans of the old days, the ones people use as gifts nowadays do not take a lot of craftsmanship to make. Neither are the materials unique. In some of the popular tourist markets around Beijing, you can buy traditional Zhejiang fans made of blue painted cloth. In stead of sand wood, very scented substitute materials are used for the structures. Because fans are small, inexpensive and typically Chinese, many people like to use them as gifts from the overseas trips. I heard westerners appreciate these gifts.
My Mexican friends told me that Chinese fans are all over the place in Mexico. Things are probably true in Chinatowns throughout the United States. That reminds me of an article by a Chinese writer. He wrote that two former Soviet Union experts paid a special visit to a fan factory in Suzhou during the 1960s. They wanted to buy some fans to take home. The workers were very excited about that visit. The factory held a meeting of its 200 workers to discuss the production plan. They were determined to make the best fans they could for their Soviet friends. Now, although fans are still a very good gift for foreigners, we seem to be using excessively. Someone needs to have a look at the fans factory and people who go on overseas trips about the over-supply of fans.