Fauziya B. S Ilelah: “Yang Guifei of Africa” in Love with Chinese Fans

Fauziya B. S Ilelah, Nigeria: “What fascinate me the most are Chinese fans. In the past, I would have said: isn’t fanning air the only purpose of a fan? In my own country, fans are usually made of straw. Brown in color, they look plain. Chinese fans, however, are so beautiful that you hardly have the heart to use them for fanning.”

What’s China really like in the eyes of foreigners? Which parts of Chinese culture are the most attractive? What are their personal experiences while learning Chinese language? Are there any touching stories that happened to them during their stay in China? You will find the answers here. After reading the following stories, don’t you have the desire to pick up your pen and put down something in Chinese about things around you?

Fauziya B. S Ilelah, Nigeria

Foreign students in China always find themselves falling naturally in love with a few things that are typical of China. What fascinate me the most are Chinese fans. In the past, I would have said: isn’t fanning air the only purpose of a fan? In my own country, fans are usually made of straw. Brown in color, they look plain. Chinese fans, however, are so beautiful that you hardly have the heart to use them for fanning.

Fauziya B. S Ilelah

Very interested in Beijing Opera, I found a teacher to teach it to me. The teacher asked me to play Tang Dynasty’s number one beauty – Yang Guifei (Imperial Consort Yang). When teaching me to dance, the teacher asked me to hold a fan in my hand. I said: “Wouldn’t it be better if I held a handkerchief in the other hand?” e teacher snapped: “That wouldn’t be good at all. Handkerchiefs are for servant girls. You are an imperial consort. If you held a fan and a handkerchief at the same time, it would be a scene of chaos!” It was only then I realized fans had even been able to represent status in ancient times! Another time, during rehearsal for a performance, I was walking with swagger out of the back stage with a fan right in front of my belly. The director shouted: “Literati fan the chest; warriors fan the belly!” At first, I was clueless as to what that meant. The director then explained: “Literati, the highly educated, use the fan in front of their chest; only warriors fan their belly.” is explanation didn’t quite quench my curiosity, and I asked: “Are there really so many Do’s and Don’ts in the use of a fan?” The director said: “Of course there are! China has such a long history. It’s only natural to have many Do’s and Don’ts.” is made me more curious about fans.

“The fan is good not only because it has outward beauty, but also because it can support the cause of environmental protection. Many people like to set their air conditioning to a very low temperature. is wastes a lot of energy and causes a large amount of carbon dioxide emission. If we raise our air conditioning setting by one degree, we will use 10% less energy. Think about this: what if we all switched to fans? We would take a huge step forward toward green living.”

Later, I learned that fans could even be used as hair accessories – absolutely beautiful ones! I started to collect different kinds of fans – paper fans, cloth fans, feather fans – and many of them. During this year’s summer vacation, when I represented Southeast University at the 3rd “Chinese Bridge” Chinese Proficiency Competition for International Students Studying in China, fans became my best friends. I went through all rounds of the competition holding a fan in my hand. When I performed the task of “Describe Who I Am”, the fan was indeed indispensable, because I was no other than “Yang Guifei of Nigeria”! The fan was even more useful during my performance of comprehensive Chinese cultural skills, because it is a Beijing Opera prop that I simply could not do without. What I had least expected was that the fan played a big role in my impromptu speech on the topic of “low-carbon living”. Holding a fan in my hand, I said to the audience: “The fan is good not only because it has outward beauty, but also because it can support the cause of environmental protection. Many people like to set their air conditioning to a very low temperature. is wastes a lot of energy and causes a large amount of carbon dioxide emission. If we raise our air conditioning setting by one degree, we will use 10% less energy. Think about this: what if we all switched to fans? We would take a huge step forward toward green living.”

I have a collection of various kinds of fans. To me, the fan has become truly indispensable. When it is hot, I use it to fan air in front of my chest; when I want to make myself look prettier, I stick it in my hair. I hail from Africa all right, but when I feel shy and use the fan to cover my face, I show myself as someone with my share of Eastern femininity.


Confucius Institute Magazine 11

Published in Confucius Institute Magazine
Number 11.
 Volume VI. November 2010.

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