Irony, play and compassion

Fans and leisure

As an iconic 'image of leisure,' the shape of fans migrated to other places, becoming, for instance, a common form of a window in houses and gardens. Fans also provided the form for everyday objects such as boxes, trays and pots. In such cases, fans came to signify a lifestyle and an attitude, placing thoughts of leisure in our midst.

A striking example of using a fan to suggest a mood of literati leisure is seen in this Ming album where the outer box has a fan mounted to its interior, wrapping the contents. The album inside continues the bucolic mood this suggests, being a set of poetic exchanges each inscribed on an ersatz tree leaf.



Drawing of lattice
circa 1900
 CHEN Yuansu 陳元素 (17th century)
Fan leaf by Chen, and correspondence to Chen
Ink on leaf-shaped paper
Private collection