DO NOT think odd of the fan I give you. You will need it as just thinking of
each other will turn us to flame more than a hot summer day of June." In a
starry starry winter night, a government official sends a love letter written on
a white fan to a beautiful young kisaeng, a woman who created a lively
party atmosphere and comforted men by her talents of singing and dancing. The
kisaeng in return gives him her answer. "Though you bring me the fan to chill my
heart, how would it do so when even my own tears could not dry up the fire
inside me." Why do these lovers use a fan when they could use a piece of paper
instead? Sometimes there are more effective ways to express one's feelings. For
our ancestors, using a fan was one of them.
In every country people have suffered from hot weather. Thus,
the fan made for the purpose of easing the heat has become a traditional
inheritance in many countries. However, Koreans have built a special custom of
writing and painting on fans. According to Jinseo, a Chinese history
book, this tradition has existed for about 1,600 years. The fan was widely used
among Koreans: from the common to the royal family. According to
Do-hwa-gyeon-mun-ji, a Chinese book of art, the Chinese were amazed at
the writing and drawing our ancestors drew on their fans. As envoys carried
their fans to various countries, foreigners were interested in the way they used
them. Eventually, fan culture was spread out to China, Mongolia, and Japan,
playing a role in the propagation among Asian countries.
Folding fans were used exclusively by the upper male class while
the ladies, and the common people were only allowed to use a round fan.
Classical scholars especially used folding fans more as a tool for expressing
their dignity than for practical purposes. They mostly carried their own fans
during outdoor activities since fans not only represented their class, but were
also used as weapons to protect themselves. Regardless of its form, fans were
tools that scholars could express their thoughts and feelings through drawing or
writing poems. Some were about public ideas such as worries about their country,
but most of the subjects were about personal feelings. Meanwhile, during
Dano, when the hot weather begins, everybody including the common
people gave each other fans. This meant that they hoped the heat would not over
power their neighbors. This custom still remains today in the old saying "Fan is
favored in summer and calendar in winter."
The fan was loved by everyone throughout Korean history and as a
result, gained unique characteristics in the society. Fan dance is a main
example. The fan dance emphasize the beauty of Korean traditional fans. It
became a huge tradition and has settled well as a stage performance. There are
also many varieties of fans. About 100 kinds of fans exist and these can be
divided by their forms, materials, and use. For example, uosun is made
of bird feathers and jubsun is a folding fan. The royal family used a
large fan named yongsun, which was the biggest and coolest fan. "Fans
were not just tools for creating wind. They were used as ornaments and have
reached the stage of art. We ought to continue to preserve these traditions,"
says Jo Choong-ik, a human cultural asset of Korea.
As fans have established a unique culture in Korea, they still
remain to the present day. This can be seen in the Korean fan dance and also in
many events such as the Olympics as a national symbol. In the 2004 Athens
Olympics, president Roh gave Korean players hapjukseon, the
jeonju bamboo fan, that said "Play well!" as an encouragement. Korean
fans did not only appear in the Athens Olympics. Indeed, in every Olympics,
Korean players have entered the public square holding round fans in their hands.
There are also many fan exhibitions that attract not only Koreans, but also
foreigners as well.
Fans are no longer
used to express feelings or thoughts. However, the elegance of our ancestors
remains in the fans. Our ancestors established creativity through drawings and
writings on fans, which is now being proved to be a state of art. Koreans can
see the spirit of their ancestors in every fan they come across. Through fans,
they can realize the true living story of the past and enjoy the beauty of their
ancestors' artistic talents.