I’m inordinately fond of these handsome souvenir umbrellas that the Li family Daoists and I were given on tour: a capacious one at the Amsterdam China Festival in 2005, and a dinky one from the Confucius Institute of Clermont-Ferrand in 2017.
Umbrellas, or rather parasols, are an important part of the paraphernalia of Chinese ritual processions. And they’re a common prop for folk-singers at festivals in northwest China.
Temple procession, south Gansu, June 1997.
Photo: Frank Kouwenhoven. © CHIME, all rights reserved.
A suitable soundtrack (note the leap of the major 7th!):
In north Europe we are unlikely to pray for rain, so I have much more practical use for umbrellas than do the dwellers of drought-prone north China.
Left, “Place this immediately above your own. Saves getting it wet”.
Right: top, paternalistic umbrella; lower left, umbrella for dry climates “for collecting the water of life”.
From Jacques Carelman, Catalogue of extraordinary objects (1969).
On a personal note, it may be thanks to my great-aunt Edith Miles that I warm to the topic:
For the plucky resistance of British street-signs to continental conformity, see here.