A Brief History of the Hand Fan
The origin of hand fans can be traced as far back as 4,000 years ago in Egypt. The fan was seen as a sacred instrument and used in religious ceremonies and was also seen as a symbol of power royalty even in this early form, as evidenced by the two elaborate fans found in King Tut's tomb. One of the fans had a golden handle and was covered in ostrich feathers while the other was ebony overlaid with gold and precious stones. Other ancient peoples such as the Hebrews, Persians, Greeks, and Romans also used hand fans in various forms, as mentioned in Greek and Roman texts as well as the Bible.
The folding hand fan is recognized as being invented in Japan or China with both countries holding legends of its creation. In Japan the fan is thought to be modeled after the folding wings of a bat, while the Chinese believe the sight of a woman fanning her face mask at a festival led to the tool's creation.
Regardless of how the folding fan originated, the device was taken to Europe in the 1500s by way of trade routes and became an exotic and stylish symbol of wealth and class.