Chinese Fan

Rigid hand fans in this shape were imported from China to Japan over 1,500 years ago. They have been treasured by the aristocracy and used by military commanders to signal battle orders. They are still used by referees of sumo matches, are seen in traditional Japanese theater performances of Kabuki and Noh, and are a symbol of Hotei, one of the “Seven Gods of Good Fortune.”

Okame or Otafuku (goddess of mirth & merriment)

Okame is the full faced goddess of laughter and merriment woven into this textile. One of her other names is Otafuku, or “Much Happy Good Fortune.” Her aristocratic applied eyebrows at the top of her forehead suggest her revered place among the gods. In her earliest form, as Ame no Uzume no Mikoto, she performed such an outrageous dance that the uproarious laughter of eight million gods lured the curious sun goddess out of hiding and restored light to the world. The flowers at the centers of the large squares are called kara hana bishi. They have been part of the Japanese design vocabulary since they arrived on imported Chinese fabrics about 1,500 years ago.

Copyright 2006 Jeffrey Krauss and Ann Marie Moeller