In written records, the oldest reference to a collapsible umbrella dates to the year 21 A.D., when Wang Mang (r. 9芒鈧€?3) had one designed for a ceremonial four-wheeled carriage. The 2nd century commentator Fu Qian added that this collapsible umbrella of Wang Mang"s carriage had bendable joints which enabled them to be extended or retracted. A 1st century collapsible umbrella has since been recovered from the tomb of Wang Guang at the Korean site of the Lelang Commandery, illustrated in a work by Harada and Komai. However, the Chinese collapsible umbrella is perhaps a concept that is yet centuries older than Qin"s tomb. Zhou Dynasty bronze castings of complex bronze socketed hinges with locking slides and bolts芒鈧€漺hich could have been used for parasols and umbrellas芒鈧€?were found in an archeological site of Luoyang, dated to the 6th century BCE.
An even older source on the umbrella is perhaps the ancient book of Chinese ceremonies, called Zhou Li (The Rites of Zhou), dating 2400 years ago, which directs that upon the imperial cars the dais should be placed. The figure of this dais contained in Zhou-Li, and the description of it given in the explanatory commentary of Lin-hi-ye, both identify it with an umbrella. The latter describes the dais to be composed of 28 arcs, which are equivalent to the ribs of the modern instrument, and the staff supporting the covering to consist of two parts, the upper being a rod 3/18 of a Chinese foot in circumference, and the lower a tube 6/10 in circumference, into which the upper half is capable of sliding and closing.
The Chinese character for umbrella is (s脟沤n) and is a pictograph resembling the modern umbrella in design. Some investigators have supposed that its invention was first created by tying large leaves to bough-like ribs (the branching out parts of an umbrella). Others assert that the idea was probably derived from the tent, which remains in form unaltered to the present day. However, the tradition existing in China is that it originated in standards and banners waving in the air, hence the use of the umbrella was often linked to high ranking (though not necessarily royalty in China). On one occasion at least, twenty-four umbrellas were carried before the Emperor when he went out hunting. In this case the umbrella served as a defense against rain rather than sun. The Chinese design was later brought to Japan via Korea and also introduced to Persia and the Western world via the Silk Road. The Chinese and Japanese traditional parasol, often used near temples, to this day remains similar to the original ancient Chinese design.
A late Song Dynasty Chinese divination book that was printed in about 1270 CE features a picture of a collapsible umbrella that is exactly like the modern umbrella of today"s China.