For a large span of time Asian fans have played key roles in military, religious, civil, social and utilitarian aspects of society. It has only been in the last fifty years or so that Asian fans have come to be appreciated for their rare beauty. The English word for fan comes from the Latin "vannis", which was a tool for tossing grain. Those who lives thousands of years ago used such Asian fans for practical reasons.
Later, in the courts of Egypt, Asian fans were used in religious ceremonies. These Asian fans were seen as official symbols and often displayed in tomb paintings and low-relief carvings. The Asian fan was also seen in the Middle East, as is evident from the Bible. Jeremiah spoke of such things as, "I will fan them with a fan in the gates of the land," and, "Send unto Babylon fanners that shall fan her".
The Asian fan was also used as shield from the sun, the rain, dust, people and even women trying to attract the attention of men. The Asian fan slowly made its way from Egypt to Greece and then to Italy. The Roman Empire made Asian fans and these were used to keep people cool as well as keep insects away. Usually, a servant would fan an official with an Asian fan.
Asian fans were of course also used in China since B.C. times. Today collecting Asian fans is a fun and interesting hobby that is very rewarding. Museums spanning the world often mount exhibits of Asian fans and a few excellent books have been published on the subject after a hiatus of about half a century. Asian fans can also be purchased on-line, as a wide variety of styles and colors are available.