the cleveland museum of art has put together a lesson plan about fans in japan:
• Fan-- a visual symbol of a person’s profession or rank in society
• Folding fans—thought to have been invented in Japan for imperial ceremonial use
• Hiogi—a wedge-shaped or crescent folding fan with wooden blades
• Komori ogi—literally “bat fan,” a folding fan made of paper
• Ogi-e—fan painting
• Uchiwa—a round fan
• Fans have long played an important role in Japan where they were carried by both men and women. In addition to performing the practical function of cooling the air and shooing away insects, they were an indication of rank and status; the fan carried by a courtier would be different from that of a samurai warrior or a Zen tea master.
• The uchiwa, or round flat fan, is believed to be the earliest form and to have been imported originally from China.
• The folding fan, hiogi, is thought to have been invented in Japan in the 7th century and was initially reserved for the sole use of the emperor in performing court ceremonies. It was made from slender wooden blades fastened securely at one end with threads running through holes in the other end so that it could be spread open in a radiating arch.
• The earliest wood fans were undecorated. Later fans were made of paper and silk enhanced with calligraphy or painting.
• The use of fans became gradually more widespread and spread through all levels of society.
• The union of function with beauty, which is one of the benchmarks of Japanese
aesthetics, is particularly apparent in the creation of fans. Painters used their
distinctive shapes to create individual artistic expressions in ink or color.
• The oldest folding fans in existence date from the end of the 12th century. Since most fans were essentially items of everyday use, they were discarded when worn out, broken, or replaced. Later on, however, many famous artists began to paint
fans, which have been prized and preserved by collectors.
• The use of fans has long been represented in Japanese art and literature; the first literary mention of the folding fan appears in an 8th-century poem and the epic tales of the Heian period, The Tale of Genji and the Tales of Ise, make frequent references to them. The use of fans is frequently depicted on both hanging scrolls and folding screens.
• Although fans are generally associated with Asia, they inspired many 19th-century Western artists to create their versions.
• Fans are often given as gifts or as tokens of esteem.
(you know that second-to-last one really wants a decent explanation!)
(william chase; kunisada, ogi-fan shape inset by hiroshige; advertising fans for sarah bernhardt's favorite powder; kunisada utagawa's fan-seller; from ebay; more uses of japanese imagery for advertising purposes; tessai tomioka; aesthetic japonisme; one in a long series of fan illustrations bound into manga by many noted japanese artists; from designer poiret; and another fan design.)