Shortly after the silk and feather umbrellas became popular in china, their manufacturers managed to discover new kind of material created from wood - paper. This new material enabled creation of highly stylized, decorative and lightweight umbrellas that slowly became popular in many Asian countries, most notably Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, Korea, Laos and Thailand.
In addition of providing protection from sun and limited protection from rain (oil coating of paper canopy can provide some waterproofing), for long time paper umbrellas were viewed as symbols of wealth, power and religion. During the height of umbrella popularity in China, you could easily recognize the bearers by the designs and colors of their umbrellas - royal family members used yellow or red colors, and nobility and wealthy carried blue.
In today Chinese and Japanese society, umbrellas today have a great traditional and superstitious significance. They are one of the most essential items that are presented to the newlywed bride from her matron of honor, symbolizing blessing, protection from evil spirits and wish for many children. Purple umbrellas symbolize longevity for the elders, white are used at the funerals, and 16year old boys received umbrella as a part of their "rite of passage" ceremony.
The beauty of the Chinese paper umbrellas had such a great effect on worldwide trends that their elegantly crafted materials and their canopy designs which often showcased nature, animals, dragons, flowers, and landscapes quickly traveled via trade routes to distant Europe, in a time when they were finally exiting long dark ages and entering renaissance. Enchanted by the beautiful Chinese umbrellas, Italian and French nobility quickly embraced this new trend and started spreading locally made umbrellas and parasols across entire Europe, and later on the world.
Paper umbrellas today represent one of the best known Chinese traditional exports, often being sold to tourist on every corner by various merchants who promote their craftsmanship. It is generally believed that most famous and best made Chinese paper umbrellas come from the beautiful city of Hangzhou (former capital of Ancient China), renowned worldwide but the its 1000 years of prosperity and incredible natural scenery.