The Art of a Gentle Breeze:A Special Exhibition of Painting and Calligraphy on Folding Fans

  • Published by Taiwan National Palace Museum
  • Chief Editor: Hsu Wen-Mei
  • Language: Chinese
  • ISBN: 978-957-562-769-0
  • Softcover: HK$350

A gentle breeze in the summer is like a good rain after a long drought. To bring a cool breeze to the hot summer days, the National Palace Museum (NPM) will host The Art of a Gentle Breeze: A Special Exhibition of Painting and Calligraphy on Folding Fans from Jul. 1, 2016 to Sept. 25, 2015, providing visitors a cool, refreshing wave to dispel the summer heat.

The use of folding fans in China has had a long history. In Chun Qiu Fan Lu (the Luxuriant Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annals), the quote "summon dragon to bring rain and use folding fan to drive away heat" reveals the transformation of folding fans as a symbol of social status to one that serves functional purposes. Folding fans came into prominence during the early Ming dynasty when envoys from Japan brought them as a tribute to Emperor Taizu of Ming (Zhu Yuanzhang, 1328–1398), who later presented the folding fans to his officials. However, the earliest record of Japanese folding fans in China can be traced as far back as 988 during the reign of Emperor Taizong of Song (Zhao Kuangyi, 939–997), when a monk by the name of Chonen (938–1016) from the Tōdai-ji (a Buddhist temple) brought 20 hiougi fans and two kawahori fans as tributes to the emperor. Folding fans continued to be imported during the Song and Yuan dynasties; evidence of such included "Yang Zhu Bu Japanese Folding Fan," a poem written by Su Zhe (1039–1112) that details the distinctive painting style of Japan as illustrated in the folding fan. Emperor Taizu of Ming's acts of rewarding his officials with the folding fans subsequently gave rise to the custom of officials using and writing on folding fans as a vehicle for artistic expression. Folding fans with painting and calligraphy presented as gifts also became a trend among famous literati in the art world, including figures such as Shen Zhou (1427–1509), Zhu Yunming (1461–1527), Wen Zhengming (1470–1559), and Tang Yin (1470–1524), whose masterpieces in this format still survive. During the Qing dynasty, the folding fans had evolved into a cultural art form appreciated by both commoners and the elite.

The NPM houses a collection of magnificent folding fans, which are considerable in both quality and quantity. This special exhibition catalogue, published as a result of the aforementioned special exhibition, will cover the five sections of the special exhibition comprising "Folding Fans at the Imperial Court," "Exchanging Elegant Gifts of the Brush," "Treasures of the Sleeve Pleasing to the Eye," "Folding Fans by Rulers and Officials," and "Enjoyed by Elite and Commoner Alike." A monograph from Executive Editor Hsu Wen-mei was written to allow readers to understand the origin and history of folding fans as well as appreciate the world of painting and calligraphy hidden inside them. In addition, readers will be able to discern the techniques involved in the making of the folding fans and imagine the elegance of holding folding fans, engendering a sense of comforting and cooling sensation in the their mind.