China has been making fans since 200 B.C. During the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C – A.D. 23), Ban Jieyu, a famous woman writer, wrote, in admiration of fans, the poem Song of Grievance: "The newly spun silk from Qi is as white as snow, the round fans made of the silk shine as the full moon." Folding fans appeared in the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420—581) and became very popular during the Ming (1368—1644) and Qing (1644—1911) dynasties because they were convenient to carry. Since the earliest fans in China were made of feathers, the Chinese character for "fan" has the character for "feather" as a component.
Fans were used in China many thousands of years of years ago and made out of many different materials such as silk, paper, feathers and palm leaves. (Interestingly, the folded paper fan was actually developed in Japan and introduced to China during the 10th or 11th Century via Korea).