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Paper Fan: Vietnamese Tradition

According to Vietnamese tradition, each household must have eight specific items which are vital in its culture. One of these is the paper fan which holds both aesthetic value and functionality.

While fans are also a part of the culture of East Asia, the Vietnamese fan differs from that in China and Japan in terms of the angle. Fans in the two East Asian countries have a 180 degree angle, while that in Vietnam opens to less than 180 degrees.

Vietnamese fans are said to look like the sun shining and are regarded as important art pieces because of the intricate designs on the paper which are either painted or drawn. A traditional Vietnamese fan would have Han Nom characters representing Heaven, Land and People which symbolize prosperity in Vietnamese culture. Han Nom characters are the country’s original form of writing.

A Vietnamese fan has two main slats which form the frame. They should be made of the strongest and most elastic bamboo available in order to maintain the original structure of the fan. The surface of the fan is made of Do paper, made from bamboo and silk. It is then painted with a combination of dark red, black, yellow, brown and violet, colours which seem to signify how ancient but glamorous and dignified the traditional Vietnamese fan is.

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The traditional fan is so significant to Vietnamese culture that there is a village in which its primary function and source of livelihood is making paper fans. This is the Thach That Village in the Northern province of Ha Tay which has become popular all over the world for creating gorgeous authentic Vietnamese paper fans.

Today, the paper fan holds both a ceremonial and functional role. It is used in traditional art performances to represent an important part of Vietnamese culture, but it is also used in ordinary everyday life for its practical purpose. The paper fan is one symbol and proof of Vietnamese tradition that has stood the test of time and will continue to exist through generations to come to show to the world that its culture is one that is truly beautiful and lasting.

The other objects that are considered vital in every Vietnamese home are a gourd bowl, quill pen, Ty Ba (four-string guitar), orchid, chess set, sword and feather duster.


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