Korean folding fans have been around since 800 BC. In the Korean language, the word fan “puch’oe” literally translates to ‘a bamboo frame that blows air’. There are two distinct types of Korean fans – round-shaped fans and folding fans. In this post today, we will focus on the folding fans as they are the ones that exhibit the Korean artistic talent at its best. The traditional Korean folding fan is called “hapchuk puch’oe”.
Most commonly, the Korean folding fans are highly decorated with landscapes, flowers, birds, and ‘the four gentlemen’ (plum, orchid, chrysanthemum, and bamboo). Traditionally, these designs were hand-painted, making the fans a status symbol too. The design is painted on traditional Korean paper, “hanji” that is mounted on the frame. Many different materials are used in making these fans, such as bamboo, ivory, bone, wood, and even mother of pearl.
The painting is hand-painted on Korean mulberry paper, and it has beautiful lines made by the full breadth of the unfolded fan’s outline. The design of the lotus is a symbol of Buddha’s seat as well as the Western Paradise where Buddha resides. As it is a plant that bears flowers and fruit at the same time, it is considered an auspicious symbol for those who wish to have children.
The painting exhibits the bamboo, an elegant and graceful plant symbolic of North-East Asia. The Maedeup (Korean macrame) strand tied on the handle gives the beautiful panache to this fan. The bamboo, one of the “four noble beings” (sagunja), symbolizes loyalty as its leaves and stalks stay green throughout the seasons.
This fan depicts the maehwa tree painting on which a pair of birds perched on a branch for a rest. This tree is one of the sagunja (“four noble beings”) motifs. The Korean plum blossom has long been the herald of spring, and it has been praised as a symbol of the noble spirit overcoming all hardships.
The fan is painted to show fully-ripened pomegranates, and a pair of birds perched on the branch between the fruits.
The fan has hand-painted orange flowers and birds’ depiction on the Korean mulberry paper that create a beautiful harmony with the lines of the folding fan.
This one is a slight variation with a painting of a cute yellow cat romping with a butterfly. The fan is made of cotton and bamboo material.
A folding fan with stars and flowers design.