XJTLU Museum culture lecture series: Suzhou style fan


XJTLU Museum presents a series of lectures and activities on aspects of Suzhou culture for XJTLU students and staff to facilitate the mergence and interaction of culture. Renowned artists, authors and scholars who are widely recognized for their achievements in Suzhou local culture will be invited to our lecture series. Here comes the eleventh lecture of this series.



Inheritor of the first batch of the National Intangible Cultural Heritage Project (Fan-making skill)


In 1965, Wang Jian was born in Suzhou. He joined the Suzhou Fan Factory in 1981 and began learning fan ribs skills from Xu Yilin, the inheritor of National “Intangible Cultural Heritage of Fan-making Skills”. For the meantime, he learned skills of carving on fan ribs from Li Zongxian. In 1992, he was transferred to Taohuawu Village and had a grasp of traditional skills of making leaves under the guidance from Xi Shuigen. Then, he set up his studio named “Ting Shan Ju” in 2000. In 2005, he was awarded the honorary title of the first "Suzhou Folk Artist" and the inheritor of Jiangsu Intangible Cultural Heritage Project.

Wang Jian has spent over three decades in making fans and combined making leaves, making fan ribs and carving on fan ribs together. He has developed an expertise in over hundred processes, broken down the obstacles in traditional fan-making productive chain, succeeded in reviving the handicraft in making fans with ebony rib and gold-flecked leaf and. Wang Jian is more than a welltrained
fan maker. He is more like a scholar who understands the fan, a bosom friend of the fan. He ponders on its history, learns how to appreciate it from ancient Chinese cultures, and has long blended its attributes into his own blood.


Suzhou Fan

Su fan is the general name of Suzhou folding fan, sandalwood fan, round silk fan, round paper fan. It’s very elegant, called “Ya fan”, and is one of traditional Chinese handicrafts. Su fan began in the Southern Song Dynasty, became popular in Ming Dynasty, which lasted hundreds of years.

Folding fan is named after its characteristics of folding. Because it needs to be unfolded when using, it’s also called “Sa fan”. Fan rib, also known as bone, mainly uses bamboo as material. It’s manufactured subtly, and has hundreds of varieties. Most of the fans are mounted with cotton paper, and are divided into "plain fan" and "painting fan". The painting fan has painting, poem and carvings of famous artists.

Suzhou literati love to paint bright peony, refreshing landscape on the fan with same topic poems. Plain fan include antique white plain fan, gold plain fan and so on. Because of the above characteristics, Suzhou folding fan not only is the tool to produce wind, but also become people’s collection.

The best Suzhou folding fan is called “Wenren fan” in Ming dynasty. It is not only tool used to enjoy the cool, but also becomes a cultural goods representing ritual and fashion, which has solemn sense of ritual and identity. If you do not understand the situation it uses, you can not understand its meaning of profound process and materials. Like what teacher Wang Jian said that literati, generals, storytellers, boudoir lady and matchmaker use different fans, even the way to unfold and use fan is different. These differences also determines the difference of process and materials. And this process and materials are determined by Chinese culture of several thousand years such as Chinese philosophy and aesthetic.