A Secret Exchange : The Fan Language

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

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

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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14 Replies to “A Secret Exchange : The Fan Language”

  1. Well, it wasn’t such a secret form of communication if almost everybody knew the “fan language”. Maybe a discreet form of communication.

  2. 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 )

    Just as a heads up,these types of communication codes might not be secrets at all,in fact all too common nowadays,still I find them hard to unravel and exotic in their ways to communicate with other humans when the two or more individuals collide.

    -Gestual Language; This way of communication is mostly used in people who are deaf or mute themselves,the usage of this code relies within the movements of body parts such as,hand movements,finger orientation,arms or overall entire body,and most important of all,facial expressions.

    These codes and expression will have to hold a meaning to each movement of course since the deaf or mute person will not be able to understand or rather,in the mute case,not speak at all.

    -Bushido; This way of speaking can be a whole lot restricted,in fact in the Edo era,when Nobunaga was the almighty yet foolish ruler,when studying that era’s concept and meanings behind the rebellion Mizuno clan,I found that most people when fighting on a individual fights while holding swords,did not speak at all,but that is only in individual fights,in a war they had to let out the infamous cry of war.
    LTR Magazine

    In other words,they let their sword do the “talking” as a way to respect their opponent and their “sword” wishes.

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

    The fan way to communicate you introduced and explained the meaning of its own usages while still showing the ways of usage of its own codes,is rather fascinating honestly.
    But I think this way of communicating will always excel other ways of communicating,which is,non other than;

    Words itself.
    Words have always allowed so much to happen,trade of interests,clash of emotions,scattering unease which lies within the heart itself,helping a human survive and having a possible better understanding of the human mind while still co-existing.

    Now,don’t get me wrong,I find this way of communicating very interesting,but it is mostly used for women really,again nothing wrong with it,but the supreme way of communicating SHOULD always be the one that can satisfy all needs that live within a human’s desire swamp.

    The way of flirting seems rather tempting,would had love to see how it works in a realistic present,but it is not possible,since it probably has been torn way. Tech blog for Reviews
    Actually,maybe in the oriental countries such as:
    -South Korea/North Korea

    It might still be all possible to have these concepts colliding in certain areas.

  3. Interesting. Learning something everyday, besides that I only know one way of communication that is kinda different and that is. Over here in New Zealand a lot of cultural languages and the hidden ones in them not just from talking but they action they show. Tech blog – LTR Magazine. All I know is they see their cultural dances as a different language because that’s how they used it in the days 20th century (p.s is this the famous raven who’s the best in art)

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