Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Japanese hand fans

In the Heian period (794-1185), fans with intricate designs were used as ceremonial items at the Imperial court and as accessories by the aristocracy. Over time they became common props for the performing arts; like Japanese classical dancing, Noh plays and farce, and for the tea ceremony. By the Edo period, Uchiwa were widely used among ordinary people. Since people did not have electricity to cool themselves down, fans were a necessity. Particularly in the summer to cool off, keep mosquitoes away, and for stoking up cooking fires.

Uchiwa are the non-folding round flat fans made of bamboo ribs covers in paper or cloth. These originated from China. Traditionally they are made by cutting a bamboo tube into narrow splinters, which are then splayed out in the radial shape of a fan. Over both sides of this bamboo frame is pasted "washi" paper. It is thought that these fan designs were originally based on the shape of leaves or bird's wings.

Sensu are folding fans made of paper pasted on a thin split bamboo frame. When folded is shaped like a stick when unfolded has a semi-circular shape. The paper usually has a picture or calligraphy. These are Japanese made not, originating from China. The earliest versions, called hinoki fans, were made of thin slats of Japanese cypress hinoki wood that were stacked and bound. As time passed, paper fans made by pasting paper to a skeleton of split bamboo were made, then many types of folding fans have been created using various materials, shapes, and decorations. By the 13th century folding fans were being exported to China. Later the fans migrated to Europe, fancy courtiers of the Bourbon dynasty of France highly prized them.

Ogi, which is just a term for fan, most commonly refer to larger ones which are used for dance or decoration, ones that are more so objects of art rather than for practical use.

Fans, most commonly made from iron were used in warcraft as well.
-Dansen uchiwa were large iron fans, sometimes with a wooden core, which were carried by high-ranking officers. They were used to ward off arrows, as a sunshade, and to signal to troops.
-Gunsen were folding fans used by the average warriors to cool themselves off. They were made of bronze, brass or a similar metal for the inner spokes, and often used iron for the outer spokes, making them lightweight but strong. Warriors would hang their fans from a variety of places, most typically from the belt or the breastplate, though the latter often impeded the use of a sword or a bow.
-Saihai were tasseled fans which would be used by a commander to signal troop movements.
-Tessen were folding fans with outer spokes made of iron which were designed to look like normal, harmless folding fans or solid clubs shaped to look like a closed fan. Samurai could take these to places where swords or other overt weapons were not allowed, and some swordsmanship schools included training in the use of the tessen as a weapon. The tessen was also used for fending off arrows and darts, as a throwing weapon, and as an aid in swimming.

In manga and anime, it is not uncommon for a character to hit another character with or use as a weapon a harisen (paper fan). Ranma for example used a paper fan to redirect a punch from Happosai and then toss him high into the air.

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