A hand-held fan is an implement used to induce an airflow for the purpose of cooling or refreshing oneself. Any broad, flat surface waved back-and-forth will create a small airflow and therefore can be considered a rudimentary fan. But generally, purpose-made hand-held fans are shaped like a sector of a circle and made of a thin material (such as paper or feathers) mounted on slats which revolve around a pivot so that it can be closed when not in use.
The movement of a hand-held fan provides cooling by increasing the airflow over the skin which in turn increases the evaporation rate of sweat droplets on the skin. This evaporation has a cooling effect due to the latent heat of evaporation of water. Fans are convenient to carry around, especially folding fans.
East Asia 
The oldest existing Chinese fans are a pair of woven bamboo side-mounted fans from the 2nd century BC. The Chinese character for "fan" (扇) is etymologically derived from a picture of feathers under a roof. The Chinese fixed fan, pien-mien, means 'to agitate the air'. A particular status and gender would be associated with a specific type of fan. During the Song Dynasty, famous artists were often commissioned to paint fans. The Chinese dancing fan was developed in the 7th century. The Chinese form of the hand fan was a row of feathers mounted in the end of a handle. In the later centuries, Chinese poems and four-word idioms were used to decorate the fans by using Chinese calligraphy pens. In ancient China, fans came in various shapes and forms (such as in a leaf, oval or a half-moon shape), and were made in different materials such as silk, bamboo, feathers, etc.
In ancient Japan, hand fans, such as oval and silk fans was influenced greatly by the Chinese fans. The earliest visual depiction of fans in Japan dates back to the 6th century CE, with burial tomb paintings showed drawings of fans. The folding fan was invented in Japan, with date ranging from the 6th to 9th century. It was a court fan called the Akomeogi (衵扇 Akomeōgi ) after the court women's dress named Akome. According to the Song Sui (History of Song), a Japanese monk Chonen (奝然 Chōnen , 938－1016) offered the folding fans (twenty wooden-bladed fans hiogi (桧扇 hiōgi ) and two paper fans kawahori-ogi (蝙蝠扇 kawahori-ōgi )) to the emperor of China in 988. Later in 11th century, Korean envoys brought along Korean folding fans which were of Japanese origin as gifts to Chinese court. The popularity of folding fans was such that sumptuary laws were promulgated during Heian period which restricted the decoration of both hiogi and paper folding fans. They were made by tying thin stripes of hinoki (or Japanese cypress) together with thread. The number of strips of wood differed according to the person's rank. Later in the 16th century Portuguese traders introduced it to the west and soon both men and women throughout the continent adopted it. They are used today by Shinto priests in formal costume and in the formal costume of the Japanese court (they can be seen used by the Emperor and Empress during coronation and marriage) and are brightly painted with long tassels. Simple Japanese paper fans are sometimes known as harisen.
Printed fan leaves and painted fans are done on a paper ground. The paper was originally handmade and displayed the characteristic watermarks. Machine-made paper fans, introduced in the 19th century, are smoother, with an even texture. Even today, Geisha of all types (but maiko most often) use folding fans in their fan dances as well.
Japanese fans are made of paper on a bamboo frame, usually with a design painted on them. In addition to folding fans (ōgi), the non-bending fans (uchiwa) are popular and commonplace. The fan is primarily used for fanning oneself in hot weather.
It was also used in the military as a way of sending signals on the field of battle, however fans were mainly used for social and court activities.
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In Japan, fans were variously used by warriors as a form of weapon, by actors and dancers for performances, and by children as a toy.
Traditionally, the rigid fan (also called fixed fan) was the most popular form in China, although the folding fan came into popularity during the Ming Dynasty between the years of 1368 and 1644, and there are many beautiful examples of these folding fans remain. The Mai Ogi (or Chinese dancing fan) has ten sticks and a thick paper mount showing the family crest. Chinese painters crafted many fan decoration designs. The slats, of ivory, bone, mica, mother of pearl, sandalwood, or tortoise shell, were carved and covered with paper or fabric. Folding fans have "montures" which are the sticks and guards. The leaves are usually painted by craftsman. Social significance was attached to the fan in the Far East. The management of the fan became a highly regarded feminine art. The function and employment of the fan reached its high point of social significance (fans were even used as a weapon - called the iron fan, or tiě shān in Chinese, tessen in Japanese; see Korean fighting fan for Korean use).
Archaeological ruins and ancient texts show that fans were used in ancient Greece at least since the 4th century BC and was known under the name rhipis (Greek: ῥιπίς). In Europe, during the Middle Ages, the fan was absent. Christian Europe's earliest fan was the flabellum (or ceremonial fan), which dates to the 6th century. These were used during services to drive insects away from the consecrated bread and wine. Their use died out in western Europe during the Middle Ages, but continues in the Eastern Orthodox and Ethiopian Churches. Hand fans were reintroduced to Europe in the 13th and 14th centuries. Fans from the Middle East were brought back by Crusaders. In the 15th century, Portuguese traders brought fans to Europe from China and Japan. Fans became generally popular. The fan is especially popular in Spain, where flamenco dancers used the fan and extended its use to the nobility.
In the 17th century the folding fan, introduced from East Asia, became popular in Europe. These fans are particularly well displayed in the portraits of the high-born women of the era. Queen Elizabeth 1st of England can be seen to carry both folding fans decorated with pom poms on their guardsticks as well as the older style rigid fan, usually decorated with feathers and jewels. These rigid style fans often hung from the skirts of ladies, but of the fans of this era it is only the more exotic folding ones which have survived. Those folding fans of the 15th century found in museums today have either leather leaves with cut out designs forming a lace-like design or a more rigid leaf with inlays of more exotic materials like mica. One of the characteristics of these fans is the rather crude bone or ivory sticks and the way the leather leaves are often slotted onto the sticks rather than glued as with later folding fans. Fans made entirely of decorated sticks without a fan 'leaf' were known as brisé fans. However, despite the relative crude methods of construction folding fans were at this era high status, exotic items on par with elaborate gloves as gifts to royalty.
In the 17th century the rigid fan which was seen in portraits of the previous century had fallen out of favour as folding fans gained dominance in Europe. Fans started to display well painted leaves, often with a religious or classical subject. The reverse side of these early fans also started to display elaborate flower designs. The sticks are often plain ivory or tortoiseshell, sometimes inlaid with gold or silver pique work. The way the sticks sit close to each other, often with little or no space between them is one of the distinguishing characteristics of fans of this era.
In 1685 the Edict of Nantes was revoked in France. This caused large scale immigration from France to the surrounding Protestant countries (such as England) of many fan craftsman. This dispersion in skill is reflected in the growing quality of many fans from these non-French countries after this date.
In the 18th century, fans reached a high degree of artistry and were being made throughout Europe often by specialized craftsmen, either in leaves or sticks. Folded fans of silk, or parchment were decorated and painted by artists. Fans were also imported from China by the East India Companies at this time. Around the middle 18th century, inventors started designing mechanical fans. Wind-up fans (similar to wind-up clocks) were popular in the 18th century. In the 19th century in the West, European fashion caused fan decoration and size to vary.
It has been said that in the courts of England, Spain and elsewhere fans were used in a more or less secret, unspoken code of messages These fan languages were a way to cope with the restricting social etiquette. However, modern research has proved that this was a marketing ploy developed in the 18th century (FANA Journal, spring 2004, Fact & Fiction about the language of the fan by J.P. Ryan) - one that has kept its appeal remarkably over the succeeding centuries. This is now used for marketing by fan makers like Cussons & Sons & Co. Ltd who produced a series of advertisements in 1954 showing "the language of the fan" with fans supplied by the well known French fan maker Duvelleroy.
Hand fans have two general categories:
- Fixed (or rigid, flat) fans (Chinese: 平扇, pǐng shàn; Japanese: 団扇, uchiwa, cannot be folded): circular fans, palm-leaf fans, straw fans, feather fans, etc.
- Folding fans (Chinese: 折扇, zhě shàn; Japanese: 扇子, sensu, can be freely opened): silk folding fans, paper folding fans, sandalwood fans, etc.
See also 
Media related to Hand fans at Wikimedia Commons
Use in dance 
- Buchaechum – Korean fan dance
Use as weapons 
Use in comedy 
- Musée de l'Éventail (Paris)
- The Fan Museum in Greenwich (Greenwich, London)
- The Hand Fan Museum in Healdsburg, California
- Museu Tèxtil i d’Indumentària in Barcelona
- A Brief History of Fans
- Chinese Hand Fans
- Japanese Hand Fans
- Halsey, William Darrach; Friedman, Emanuel (1983). Collier's encyclopedia: with bibliography and index 9. Macmillan Educational Co. p. 556. "In the seventh century the folding fan evolved, the earliest form of which was a court fan called the "Akomeogi", which had thirty-eight blades connected by a rivet; it had artificial flowers at the corners and twelve long, colored silk streamers."
- Lipinski, Edward R. (1999). The New York Times home repair almanac: a season-by-season guide for maintaining your home. Lebhar-Friedman Books. ISBN 0-86730-759-5. "The Japanese developed the folding fan, the Akomeogi, during the sixth century. Portuguese traders introduced it to the west in the 16th century and soon both men and women throughout the continent adopted it."
- Qian, Gonglin (2000). Chinese fans: artistry and aesthetics. Long River Press. p. 12. ISBN 1-59265-020-1. "The first folding fan arrived as a tribute that was brought to China by a Japanese monk in 988. Writings of both Japanese and Chinese scholars concerning the folding fan, which was believed to have been first invented in Japan, apparently suggest that it received its shape from the design of a bat's wing."
- Verschuer, Charlotte von (2006). Across the perilous sea: Japanese trade with China and Korea from the seventh to the sixteenth centuries. Cornell University. p. 72. ISBN 1-933947-03-9. "Another Japanese creation enjoyed great success among foreigners: the folding fans. It was invented in Japan in the eighth or ninth century, when only round and fixed (uchiwa) fans made of palm leaves were known. -- their usage had spread throughout China in antiquity. Two types of folding fans developed: one was made of cypress-wood blades bound by a thread (hiogi); the other had a frame with fewer blades which was covered in Japanese paper and folded in a zigzag patterns (kawahori-ogi)."
"The paper fan was described by a thirteenth-century Chinese author, but well before that date Chōnen had offered twenty wooden-bladed fans and two paper fans to the emperor of China."
- "衵扇" [Akomeogi] (in Japanese). Mypedia.
- Hutt, Julia; Alexander, Hélène (1992). Ōgi: a history of the Japanese fan. Dauphin Pub. p. 14. ISBN 1-872357-08-3. "It was recorded in the Song Shu, the official history of the Chinese Song dynasty (960-1279), that in 988 a Japanese monk, Chonen, presented at court gifts of..."
(Editor's note: Instead of Song Shu (宋書 Book of Song), Song Sui (宋史 History of Song) is correct.)
"There are also numerous references to folding fans in the great classical literature of the Heian period (794-1185), in particular the Genji monogatari (The tale of Genji) by Murasaki Shikibu and the Makura no Sōshi (The pillow book) by Sei Shōnagon. Already by the end of tenth century, the popularity of folding fans was such that sumptuary laws were promulgated during Chōho era (999-1003) which restricted the decoration of both hiogi and paper folding fans."
- Tsang, Ka Bo (2002). More than keeping cool: Chinese fans and fan painting. Royal Ontario Museum. p. 10. ISBN 0-88854-439-1. "Guo Ruoxu, for example, has included a short note about the folding fan in his Tuhua Jian Wen Zhi (Records of Paintings Seen and Heard About, 1074) It states that Korean envoys often brought along Korean folding fans as gifts. They were, Guo also pointed out, of Japanese origin."
- Medley, Margaret (1976). Chinese painting and the decorative style. University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art. p. 106. ISBN 0-7286-0028-5. "In origin it was evidently Japanese, common already in the Heian period. A fragment of a late Heian folding-fan was excavated some decade ago at Takao-yama. Japanese fans were well known in China during the late eleventh century."
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- Alexander, Helene. The Fan Museum, Third Millennium Publishing, 2001 ISBN 0-9540319-1-1
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- Das, Justin. Pankha -Traditional crafted hand fans of the Indian Subcontinent from the collection of Justin Das - The fan museum, Greenwich (2004)
- mm's fan collection with monographies on love symbols on fans, celluloid fans, George Barbier and more
- Hand fan collection Anna Checcoli
- All About Hand Fans with Cynthia Fendel
- Hand Fan Productions
- Hand Fan Museum
- The Fan Circle International
- Tessen warrior fan
- The Fan Museum in Greenwich, London
- Fan Association of North America
- Fans in the Staten Island Historical Society Online Collections Database
- La Place de l'Eventail
- Galerie Le Curieux, Paris
- Fans in the 16th and 17th Centuries
- LG éventails - contemporary hand fans by Sylvain Le Guen
- Allhandfans - Site entirely dedicated to the hand fan