Historia, uso y lenguaje del abanico

Fan history, use and language: what can be said with a fan?

The fan, that object considered so Spanish, but which in Europe did not arrive until the 16th century when it was brought from the Far East by Portuguese merchants. In principle, this object was used to provide relief from the heat and was commonly used for both sexes. Men used smaller pocket sized ones and women larger ones, although over the years the use of the fan was exclusive to ladies, who came to develop a complicated “fan language”. Indeed, this object has always been considered an object of seduction, imagination and liberation.


Fan history around the world

Historia del abanico, abanico chino

The history of this contraption is as long and ancient as the very existence of humanity. Over the centuries, many are the countries and civilizations that have used it. Although it is thought that it was in the 15th century when the first fans arrived in China from Korea and it was from there that the great adventurers exported them to other countries, recent studies show that the first fans were introduced into Europe by the Jesuits.

But their era of high use was actually during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV, when they were totally an indispensable part of people’s dress. Very luxurious products were used (precious stones, Florentine taffeta, gold and precious metals) to make them. But it was in the 17th century when they came to England, but here they were painted by famous artists, were bigger and their rods were attached to a rigid tip.


Parts of the fan

Partes del abanico

Over the years, the fan was “popularised” and arrived at all social strata. Fans are made up of three parts: the rods and the pin which together form the frame, and then we need to talk about the slips

  • The rods: are made with bamboo by forming strips of the same length, thickness and width.
  • The pin: is the wire that joins the rods, it is usually pressed onto the ends of the rods to prevent them from poking out.
  • The slips: are the part that folds with the rods and that, when it opens up, forms its surface.


Types of fans

Tipos de abanicos

The wide range of fans has always gone hand in hand with the whims of fashion. There are all kinds, including for multiple uses which today can seem the most surprising aspect.


  • Luxury fans: these were the most expensive and luxurious fans. Their particular feature lay in the fact that they lacked what is called slips. Also, their rods were quite big and they were made with elements like tortoiseshell or ivory. If they were a present, they usually contained etchings.
  • Violin fans: these fans date back to the 19th century and were called this because when they were closed, they were reminiscent of the shape of this famous instrument.
  • Fans for watching the bullfight: even if it is quite particular, there were fans especially made for going to the bullfight. They were large so that spectators could use them to provide shade.
  • Aroma fans: the British brand Kimmel invented aroma fans. These instruments gave out a pleasant and delicious aroma while they moved. Furthermore, as a curiosity, the rods of these fans were painted with floral motifs like the plants that had been used for the perfume they gave off.
  • Mask fans: in Venice, during the 19th century, so-called face shield fans became very common amd were used to go to masked parties held during Carnaval.


Here we have spoken about some types of fans, but there are many more, such as:

  • Maiden or married woman fans.
  • Spanish fan
  • Fans for home visits.
  • Fans for gentlemen.
  • Morning and afternoon fans.
  • Winter and summer fans.
  • Strolling or travelling fans.
  • Wedding or grieving fans.


Fan language

Lenguaje del Abanico


Let’s find out about some notions about what the secret fan language was, a language that was primarily based on how this element moved or was positioned:

  • I think they are pleasant and nice: give repeated strokes on the left hand
  • I am single: move the fan slowly and in a paused manner over the chest
  • I want to get to know you and what will be will be: carry the fan folded in the left hand.
  • I’m unavailable: open and close the fan very quickly.
  • I want a kiss: touch your lips subtly with the fan
  • Talk to me: open the fan with the left hand and pretend you are counting the rods
  • Impatience: repeatedly hit an object with the fan
  • Wait: open the fan slowly and in a paused manner and display it
  • When I leave, follow me: hold the fan in front of the face and eyes with the right hand
  • Show the time of an appointment: open the fan, but only with a certain number of rods
  • It is our secret: slowly slide the fan along the ear
  • Take care, we are being watched: hold the closed fan over the right cheek or cover your eyes with the open fan
  • I love you: to say this all you had to do was hold the fan over the heart
  • I pass on you: keep the fan over the left ear
  • I hate you: throw the fan on the floor




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29603 Marbella. Málaga.

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