The history of umbrella spans almost across entire span of modern human civilization. Initially created from natural materials such as leaves of eucalyptus and palm trees, advancements in technology enabled creation of first umbrellas. One of the earliest home of umbrella was china, were three thousand years ago first umbrellas started to be made from silk and paper.
Since the appearance of first silk umbrellas in China, they represented true works of art and were because of that limited only to wealthy merchants, noble families, and royals. Created from frames of mulberry bark and bamboo that is at least five years old, Chinese workers painted the silk top with various designs of dragons, nature, landscapes, animals, figures, flowers, scenes from their mythology, and writings. Sometimes in 1st century BC, first paper umbrellas appeared and they very quickly found their way to the hands of wealthy females who by then accepted sun-shade umbrella as an integral part of their fashion accessory. Even though carefully crafted and delicate umbrellas from paper and silk weighted only few hundred grams, they were capable to protect their bearers from the rain because of the special process of applying oil on their cover.
Because of their scarcity and high cost, umbrellas quickly became symbol of power in China and surrounding Asian countries. To differentiate themselves from the rest of population, Chinese royal members carried only red or yellow umbrellas, while rest used blue ones. As the centuries went on, cost of Chinese umbrellas went down which enabled its use by general population and even males. Personal use was not the only application for umbrellas, and many innovative designs were introduced even as early as 3rd century AD (collapsible mechanisms, extendable shafts, umbrellas for horse riders and carriages.
Surrounding countries adopted the umbrella into their tradition, often showcasing intricate designs and artwork with great pride, especially by royal members in Korea, Burma and Siam. Acceptance of umbrella as an integral part of culture took greatest hold in Japan, where even today pale female skin represents a measure of beauty.
Chinese Umbrella Parade
Such important fashion statement did not stay in Asia for long, and travelers from the west soon carried Chinese umbrellas to continental Europe who was just exiting Dark Ages and was eager to adopt new fashion from distant lands. Enchanted by the artful and feminine Chinese designs, umbrellas soon took over the female nobility in Italy, France and England, where they managed to slowly evolve umbrella into the general accessory that is today used by everyone.
Even though modern plastic and wooden umbrellas represent majority of worldwide sales, traditional Chinese umbrellas are still respected by many. Its traditional areas of production in Fujian and Hunan Provinces are still making millions of them every year and most respected Hangzhou style umbrellas are today celebrated for their quality and beauty.