In Vietnamese tradition, the paper fan was an indispensable item in times of yore, one of eight prized objects in every household – the others being a gourd bowl, a quill pen, a Ty Ba (four-string guitar), an orchid, a chess-set, a sword and a feather-duster.
Nowadays, the traditional paper fan is still a popular and familiar item in Vietnamese daily life.
The famous paper fan-making village in Vietnam is Thach That in the northern province of Ha Tay.
Unfolding the sun
Fans are of course common throughout the East. But what makes Vietnam’s decorative fans of the hand-held variety different from those made in China or Japan is the angle: in the latter countries, fans typically open to more than 180 degrees, whereas Vietnam’s are less than 180. If you look into Vietnamese fans, you can imagine it like a sun shining.
Part of what makes these fans art pieces are the paintings and drawings on the surface, which typically include the traditional Han Nom characters, the country’s original script, for Heaven, Land and People, which, combined, are said to symbolize prosperity.
The most important parts of each fan were its two main slats, which form its frame. The material for these slats must be the strongest and most elastic bamboo possible.
The surface of a fan is made of Do paper, derived from bamboo, and silk. Once finished, the surface is then painted, usually using a mixture of dark red, black, yellow, brown and violet – all colors seen in ancient fans.
Nowadays, paper fan is used not only in daily life but also in traditional art performances because in the past, paper fan is an indispensable decorative item in royal life. Paper fans represent a living tradition for an ancient and beautiful art form.