Fans have been used to convey messages during times when the strict rules of behaviors did not permit conversation to take place freely. The first organized fan language appeared in Spain, which consisted of 55 movements to correspond with certain meanings. This was later translated into English but reduced to 33 coded signs. Fans have a long history around the world. The Pharaohs used as fans as cooling instruments, status symbols and decorative items. They consisted of ostrich feathers attached to the tops of long poles, and were used for fanning the royals and for ceremonial processions.
In China, feather fans appeared 2,000 years ago; the folding fan (topped with paper or fabric) was invented in Japan in the 8th century. The fan became an art form in Asia, due to the beautiful paintings used as decoration. Round fans were especially popular with ladies. In Europe and the United States, ladies fans came to peak of popularity during the 1600-1800's as a fashion accessory and cooling instrument. Ladies used gestures with the fan (the "Language Of The Fan") for flirting and giving covert messages to gentlemen. Fans were richly decorated, sometimes with paintings on silk fabric, lace accents, and ribs made of mother of pearl.
Fans have been used to convey messages during times when the strict rules of behaviors did not permit conversation to take place freely. The first organized fan language appeared in Spain, which consisted of 55 movements to correspond with certain meanings. This was later translated into English but reduced to 33 coded signs:
Carrying in right hand in front of face - follow me
Carrying in left hand in front of face - desirous of acquaintance
Placing fan on left ear - I wish to be rid of you
Drawing across forehead - you have changed
Twirling in left hand - we are watched
Carrying in right hand - you are too willing
Drawing through the hand - I hate you
Twirling in the right hand - I love another
Drawing across the cheek - I love you
Presented shut - do you love me?
Drawing across the eyes - I am sorry
Touching tip with finger - I wish to speak with you
Letting fan rest on right cheek - yes
Letting fan rest on left cheek - no
Open and shut - you are cruel
Dropping it - we will be friends
Fanning slowly - I am married
Fanning quickly - I am engaged
With handle to lips - kiss me
Open wide - wait for me
Carrying fan in left hand open - come and talk to me
Place behind head - don't forget me
With little finger extended - goodbye
Shut fan held to heart - you have won my love
Shut fan resting on right eye - when will I be allowed to see you?
Presenting fan part open - at what hour?
Touching unfolded fan in the act of waving - I long to be near you always
Threaten with shut fan - do not be so unprudent
Gazing pensively at shut fan - why do you misunderstand me?
Pressing half opened fan to lips - you may kiss me
Clasping your hands under open fan - please forgive me
Cover left ear with open fan - do not betray our secret
Shut fully opened fan very slowly - I promise to marry you