Chinese umbrellas are the earliest known umbrellas used, and have existed for over 2,000 years. In the beginning, Chinese umbrellas were made of silk, and later paper umbrellas were created. The Chinese lacquered and waxed their Chinese umbrellas to repel water, so they could be used in the rain. They were among the first to do this. The frames of most umbrellas in China were and are made from bamboo or mulberry bark. The Chinese painted their Chinese umbrellas as well. The royal families typically carried red or yellow umbrellas while the common people would carry blue ones.
The oil paper Chinese umbrellas from Hunan and Fujian provinces have the best reputation for quality. Each Chinese umbrella from that region is delicately handcrafted and painted with beautiful patterns or designs. The paper shades of these Chinese umbrellas are hand-painted with various designs, such as landscapes, figures, animals (birds and cranes are very popular) and flowers. Chinese writing can also be found on these umbrellas.
After the shade of a Chinese umbrella has been painted, it is coated with oil to make it lasting and durable. What's more, each Chinese umbrella must be made with bamboo that is at least five-years-old. This is to ensure that each umbrella frame is strong yet has enough elasticity that it won't crack. Each Chinese umbrella frame is also treated so that they are resistant to insects.
Chinese umbrellas have been used for different reasons since their invention. The Chinese umbrella is often used for protection from the sun. Royalty was often shielded from the sun by large Chinese umbrellas. Many women carry umbrellas too, which has grown into a fashionable trend in many countries throughout the world. The Chinese umbrella has also influenced men to use them as well. In the West, umbrellas became popular as a fashion for men in the early 1800s. As well, Chinese umbrellas can be seen in shows and various acrobatic events, such as a tight-rope walker who uses one for balance.