A priori, we are not
talking here about oriental fans. Not that we are not interested, quite
the contrary. But because they are part of a culture and a civilization
that we respect and sometimes admire, but without enough understanding.
So we cannot venture out and talk about them, even in the form of a
However, we have already shown here the "Tianjin Massacre" fan, because it
referred to a sadly tragic event involving the relations between France
and China. The fan we now show here is, somehow, a cousin. But
hopefully it refers to less dramatic moments of relations between the
West and China.
I talked to several China specialists. On the "chinese
Thomas DeLeo, well known to fans collectors, author of various articles
in specialized journals of FANA (Fan Association of North America) or
FCI (Fan Circle International). On the "China history side", I asked
Professor Robert Bickers, author of numerous books, including The Scramble For China: Foreign Devils in
the Qing Empire, 1832-1914 (Allen Lane, Penguin Books, London,
2011). We were honored he reproduced our "Tianjin fan" (Fig. 14)
when descriving this episode.
Our two "consultants" have themselves spoken of this fan
specialists. Unfortunately I could not from these contacts get a
detailed certainty. So let me put in front of the wisdom of or visitors
of the "Place de
l'Eventail" this almost raw material.
that copying the pictures without our agreement is strictly forbidden
Here is a picture of the fan's recto.
verso) does not give a lot of informations, even if it is not
totally void, having received small grey or white paint touches.
Some practical informations about this item:
- the (rice?) paper double leaf is printed and watercoloured;
- the sticks are made of bamboo, with black lacquered guards and
green painted inner sticks;
- the rivet is metal, of the tubular usual kind;
- the total length of the fan is 30,6 cm;
- the leaf is 18 cm wide.
The informations given by Tom DeLeo and his friend and colleague Dr.
Fen Chen were not decisive. However they have given confirmation that
the boat is a British steamship armed with guns, ie a gunboat.
Thanks to them, I can assume that the depicted scene dates back to
before 1870 and may be quite older, since even before 1840 an armed
paddle steamer (Nemesis
sailed on the Pearl River. During the first Opium War, -this lamentable
action committed by the United Kingdom and other Western nations-, the Nemesis
war junks in the delta of the Pearl River (Jan. 7, 1841).
“The Nemesis Steamer
Destroying Chinese War Junks, in Canton River, from a sketch in the
possession of the Hon. East India Company” Illustrated London News,
November 12, 1842 (source : site MIT Visualizing Cultures, Opium War)
The same website shows a
picture from the Btitish
Library that we reproduce too:
British Library possesses an unusual Chinese scroll with a rough sketch
of the Nemesis and another British
warship, accompanied by a 55-line poem. There is a penned-in English
translation on the scroll as well, apparently dating from around the
time of the Opium War.
It is easy to see that "our" paddle steamer is NOT the Nemesis.
This one has only
one funnel, instead of two on the fan.
As for Robert Bickers, he was interested in our fan, thinking it was an
English "c.1850s-60s armed paddle steamer." He asked the advice of a
colleague working on foreign steamers in China. That was almost a year
ago, and I fear nothing has been found on this side.
I therefore appeal to the community of fans enthusiasts, as well as to
all visitors knowing the history of China in the nineteenth century.
boat is shown by this fan?
On which river did she sailed?
In what year, and what event is related?
Which city is near this gunboat? We see flags with the blue-white-red
one of France. But this settlement it is not like the Hongs of Canton,
often seen on fans. (e.g. here,
an hand fan of the Salem Peabody Essex Museum
Could it be Chusan? ... ?
Hoping to help you, I add a close-up of the center of the leaf.
Please remember that copying the pictures
without our agreement is strictly forbidden
So what? I am only asking a
question... and waiting for your answers, pictures and comments, dear
P.H.B. August 2013
Thank you for
writing to firstname.lastname@example.org,
and do not forget to go and see our other questions!