A Secret Exchange : The Fan Language

People have been using hand fans since quite a long time

The fan language is so expressive; if I slap you with my fan, it means you have offended me~

– Yours Truly, however, I’m joking, don’t take it seriously XD

Fan language

People have been using hand fans since quite a long time

Expression comes in different forms. One can speak to express, or they can make a certain set of moments too. Over time, however, it became necessary  to create a secretive language for communication. As this need grew, people got even more creative and started including daily items as an aid too. One such prominent item is the lovely hand fan.

Fan Language : An Introduction

Folding fan

Woman with a folding fan

People used this delicate creation back during the 19th century when communication between the two genders had restrictions in the form of fan language. Furthermore, in Japan and Korea, people used it in combat as well as to perform encouraging dances. Yes, who knew? People often used hand fans in most of the  Asian countries, but later on, it spread to European regions, thus making it an important accessory in the Victorian Era. We can track the origin of such fans back to the Second Century BC in China. The first fans were fixed fans or single material fans which people called ‘pien-mien’. One could determine the social class and gender of the holder on the basis of the size, design and use. Then, between the 6th and the 9th centuries, the Japanese further upgraded them into folding ones. They called it the Akomeogi.

Remember how I said fans were also combat weapons for Korea and Japan? Such fans are Tekkens ( literally war fans ) which the Samurais used. These were either fixed fans of metal/wood, or folding ones. The folding ones had metal/wood ribs covered with a paper mount and metal covering on the outside. Due to the sharpness of birch wood, Koreans incorporated it in the making of these fans.

Secrets In Europe : The Sign Language

Fan language


Later on, when Portugese traders introduced these fans in Europe, they instantly became popular among women of the higher classes. Also, these fans became a part of the amazing flamenco dances in Spain as we see today. During the Victorian Era, males and females almost always required companions to socialize with one another. As a result, for secret communication, they decided to make use of the fan language. They did this by creating specific moments with the fan. Originally, they used to always hold the fan in the left hand.

  • Holding it near the left ear – Leave me alone.
  • Slide on the forehead – I see you have changed.
  • Fan slowly – I’m married.
  • Fan quickly – I’m engaged.
  • Hold on the right cheek – Yes.
  • Hold on the left cheek – Nope.
  • Throwing the fan – I hate you ( of course )
  • Semiclose it – I can’t.
  • Strike it, while closing with the left hand – Write to me.
  • Move it with the left hand – They are watching us.
  • Change hands – You are imprudent/unwise.
  • Leave it hanging on the waist belt – The friendzone. Sorry mate.

Check Out All The Signs Here!

As you can see it was mostly used for flirting back then. Eventually with time, the use of such fans decreased, however, we can still see it in various traditional dances. Furthermore, some people even take classes to understand and learn this language of fans! Oh well, it is interesting nevertheless.

Do you know any such other languages used for secret communication? What are they? Do tell me below! ( I know one about shoelaces too o_o )

Do you think there were better ways to perhaps communicate with each other?

I hope you enjoyed this article ❤ See you next time!


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"With dark raven paper and twinkling white ink, I wrote my heart in the night's sky."

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