Faning the flames of tradition

Updated: 2016-10-01 18:09

By Xu Junqian and Bo Yimeng(China Daily)

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Faning the flames of tradition

Wang Jian and Li Jing have each earned acclaim for their work in crafting traditional fans. Fans that have good craftsmanship and intricate designs are highly sought after by collectors and can cost tens of thousands of yuan.[Photo by Gao Erqiang/ China Daily]

Humble beginnings

Wang first started making folding fans 35 years ago at a State-owned fan factory in Suzhou. Fascinated by the complex procedures involved in fan-making-he says that it takes roughly 300 steps to complete a fan-Wang dived into the craft immediately after he graduated from school and has since "been addicted to the magic".

"It's hardly possible for one to excel in all the steps. But I would like to learn as much as possible within my lifetime," he says.

One of Wang's most notable achievements is reviving the craft of Ming Dynasty-style, gold-painted, paper-cover folding fans. Wang believes that this particular type of fan represents the highest aesthetics of folding fans. Indeed, its market price reflects this as well-the cost of such a fan starts from about 60,000 yuan.

"But prices are only for amateurs to learn its value. Making fans is the only thing that I am capable of and interested in. All I want to do is make real Chinese fans," says Wang.

Wang left the factory and started his eponymous brand in 2000 when the decade-old fan factory was plagued by low efficiency levels and had few orders coming through.

When Wang decided to set up his own business, the folding fan market was still in a nascent stage. Today, his studio has a score of workers and students who help produce thousands of fan ribs and tens of thousands of fan covers every year. Most of the fans are made to order.

While the studio's output is still low compared to an industrialized production line, collectors and investors are more than ready to wait.

"These fans are like Hermes bags. Goods things are always worth waiting," says a customer at Wang's studio.