The Chinese are thought to have created the first waterproof umbrella and it has existed for over 3,000 years. In the beginning, Chinese umbrellas were made of silk, and later paper umbrellas came into being. The frames of most umbrellas in China were and are made from bamboo or mulberry bark.
Regarding the invention of umbrella, there are many folk legends, among which the most widely spread one is the story about Luban inventing umbrella. Luban is a renowned carpenter, engineer and inventor in ancient China. According to the records of “Jade Chips”, umbrella was invented by Luban’s wife out of care and concern about her hardworking husband.
As the folklore tells, daily meals delivered by Luban’s Wife Yun were often spoilt by downpours. So Luban built pavilions along the road. Later on, as inspired by children using lotus leaves for rain shelter, he invented the first umbrella by making a flexible framework covered by a cloth.
The prettiest Chinese umbrellas are those covered with silk, and the silk parasols of Hangzhou are veritable works of art, which also serve a practical purpose. Usually printed, dyed, or embroidered, the umbrellas are painted with the Ten Views of the West Lake or flowers, which are beautiful in shape, particular in material choosing, and exquisite in design.
The silk, as thin as cicada’s wing and printed with landscapes, is also fixed on a bamboo frame. To protect themselves against the sun, local girls like to carry parasols with them, which have long become part of the female attire.
Oil Paper Umbrellas
The Chinese oil paper umbrellas from Hunan and Fujian provinces have the best reputation for quality with delicate craftmanship and vivid pattern. The paper covers are hand-painted with flowers, birds, figures and landscapes and then coated with oil so that they are not only practical but also pretty and durable.
Though it is only a small paper umbrella like other arts, the producing craft is without any carelessness. An umbrella is finished via over eighty processes, and traditionally has five independent parts：the rib, the umbrella, the head of umbrella, the shaft and painting. The umbrella surface is made of refined cotton paper with strong pulling force.
Today, Chinese umbrellas are both a fashion statement and an item of practicality. Subtle artistry and vibrant design define the varied selection of Chinese umbrellas.