Hand fan

Hand fan. A fan is a fashion accessory and accessory that was invented and manufactured so that you could manually move air and facilitate cooling when you are in a hot environment.


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  • 1 fan
  • 2 Origins
  • 3 Nomenclature
  • 4 Styles
  • 5 Manufacturing processes of the fan
  • 6 The language of the fan
  • 7 See Also
  • 8 Sources

Hand fan

A fan is a fashion accessory and accessory that was invented and manufactured so that it could manually move air and facilitate cooling when in a hot environment, especially if it is a closed place where there is no natural air flow. The fan originated in China . Its operation is very simple, it is only enough to shake the arm that sustains it with more or less intensity; However, its manufacture is delicate since it incorporates artistic trim and quality materials.


The origin of this accessory, so common and special at the same time, is uncertain and is lost in time. It could be affirmed that it is in prehistoric times, when man discovers fire and to fan the embers he resorts to stirring the air with any object as a fan.

Assumptions aside, we are aware that the fans were used by Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Greeks and Romans, thanks to the appearance of this instrument in the artistic representations of these peoples. From Egypt , the oldest known representation is on the head of a ceremonial mace found in the Asmolean Museum, Oxford . It belonged to Narmer, who around 3000 BC first unified upper and lower Egypt, and represents a royal procession in which two slaves with fans appear.

The Egyptian fans were large, fixed, semicircular in shape, with feathers and long handles. Their function was twofold: on the one hand they served to give air and, on the other, they scared away insects.

Over time the fan became an ornamental object indicative of power.Other Egyptian representations in which fans appear can be found in the tombs of Beni-Hasan, from the twelfth dynasty ( 1791 – 1796 BC), in the lower reliefs of the Rameseo (dynasty XIX) and in the frescoes of Medinet-Habu (dynasty XX).

Greeks and Romans used fans, and proof of this are the literary quotes from various classical authors. Thus, for example, Euripides in his tragedy Helena tells of a eunuch fanning the wife of Menelaus during sleep, in order that insects do not disturb your sleep; also citing this accessory Menander in his Eunuch, and Plautus , Martial , Ovid , Tibulus and Propercio in his works. The Greeks had fans of various kinds: the miosoba, the ripis and the psigma; constituting for the Athenian women the scepter of beauty.

For its part, the Romans called it flabelo , receiving the name of muscaria those used to scare flies. In China the tradition of the fan is ancient, dating back to the times of Emperor Hsien Yuan, around 2697 BC. C. A legend attributes his invention to the daughter of the Mandarin Kan-Si, who during a masquerade ball and to mitigate the heat, waved his mask very close to the face to breathe air, performing this operation very quickly so as not to be seen her face to the men present, a gesture that was imitated by other women who attended the event.

Some authors claim that the earliest archaeological record dates back to the 8th century BC for the fixed fan in China and to the 9th century ( 877 AD ) for the folding fan in Japan . In the West, during the Middle Ages , the fan or “flabelum” became part of the Christian liturgy, being used at consecration to protect the Eucharist from insects and to refresh the celebrant.

After the fourteenth century the flabelo fell into disuse in the Roman church (reserved only for solemn masses and papal processions until its final disappearance after the Second Vatican Council ), but it was preserved in the Greek and Armenian churches where it is called “rhipidion” The fan was also known to the Incas and Aztecs , since among those present from Moctezuma to Hernán Cortés there were six feather fans.

In Spain , the first references to the fan appear in the Chronicle of Pedro IV de Aragón ( 14th century ), in which it is cited as a profession of the nobles who accompanied the king “he who carries the fan”. There is also a reference to this utensil in the inventories of goods of the painter Bartolomé Abella ( 1429 ), in that of the Prince of Viana and that of Queen Dª Juana (Juana la Loca), the latter made in 1565 .

It should be said that these fans were rigid and rounded, generally using palm (in Abella’s case), straw, silk and peacock feathers as materials. Among those present from Columbus to Elizabeth the Catholic on the return from her first trip to America , there is a fan of feathers, a material in which the five commissioned by Germana de Foix (second wife of Fernando the Catholic ) in 1514 were also made .


The fans have a specific nomenclature for each of its components:

  • Deck: Rigid and folding fan base.
  • Country: Fabric that is attached to the deck. Fans that do not have a country are called decks or simply decks.
  • Rods: Wood that can go openwork or painted.
  • Heads: First and last rod, thicker than the rest.
  • Draft: Holes made on the rods.


Knowing the nomenclature of the parts of the fan, the different styles can be identified. The main ones are:

Depending on the decoration, decorated or not decorated. We find pieces that showcase the beauty of fabric and wood without any painted or embellished trim (regardless of openwork, see below).

Depending on the decoration on one side or both (in this case called double-sided fans).

Depending on the draft (drilling work on the linkage of the piece). Openwork or not openwork.

Depending on the country (fabric). With or without fabric, within this first category there are three others according to the proportion of the same in relation to the rods. Namely classic fabric (a traditional ratio, about 1/3 fabric and 2/3 rod), intermediate fabric (the country is about half that of the previous case) and lastly narrow fabric (again the country is half which in the previous case is therefore quite narrow).

When a fan does not have a country and its rods are wider than usual, it is called “deck”, which is why it is heavier than conventional fans.

Depending on the size. Pericone fans (with a wide country and large size), traditional fans (about 23 cm, 9 inches) and handbag fans (slightly smaller, about 19 – 20 cm, 7.5 – 7.8 inches) or men’s fans, these last more sober.

Finally, they can also be differentiated depending on the materials used, different types of wood, fabrics, etc., the possible combinations being practically inexhaustible.

Fan manufacturing processes

Formerly the manufacture of the fan was purely handmade, nowadays industrial processes are also used. Although the type of fan to produce marks the process to be followed, fortunately, the tradition of making artisan pieces called to become unique has not yet been lost.

When it comes to high-end fans, the manufacturing process is pure art, using exquisite materials such as fine woods, delicate hand-applied paints, or fine fabrics.

In the case of less exclusive fans, the techniques to follow are totally or partly industrial in order to reduce the cost of their production. Machine printed fabrics, plastic rods and other affordable materials are used in these types of parts. However, some manufacturers obtain very beautiful fans using these methods.

The language of the fan

The fan, in addition to becoming an indispensable element in the clothing of a time, is an ideal means of communication at a time when women’s freedom of expression was totally restricted.

When the ladies of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century attended the dances, they were accompanied by their mother or by a young lady from the company, so that they would watch over their behavior. The company ladies were very jealous in carrying out the work entrusted to them, so the young women had to invent a way to communicate with their suitors and go unnoticed.

This object became a true parapet of a whole repertoire that ranged from naive smiles to authentic declarations of lovers.

There were different languages ​​of the fan but all of them used as a common rule the placement of the object in four directions with five different positions in each of the four. With this system, the letters of the alphabet were represented.

But in addition to that general rule, there were certain gestures with meaning already known to everyone, such as:

  • Hold the fan with your right hand in front of your face: follow me.
  • Holding it with the left hand in front of the face: I seek knowledge.
  • Keep it on the left ear: I want you to leave me alone.
  • Let it slide on your forehead: you have changed.
  • Move it with the left hand: they observe us.
  • Change it to the right hand: you are daring.
  • Throw it by hand: I hate you.
  • Move it with the right hand: I want someone else.
  • Let it slide on the cheek: I love you.
  • Present it closed: do you want me?
  • Let it slide over your eyes: go, please.
  • Touching the edge with your finger: I want to talk to you.
  • Rest it on the right cheek: yes.
  • Rest it on the left cheek: no.
  • Open it and close it: you are cruel.
  • Let it hang: we will remain friends.
  • Fan slowly: I’m married.
  • Fan fast: I’m engaged.
  • Support the fan on the lips: kiss me.
  • Open it slowly: wait for me.
  • Open it with your left hand: come and talk to me.
  • Hit it, closed, on the left hand: write me.
  • Half-close it on the right and on the left: I can’t.


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