Something About Fans - from Harper's
Kan Si was the first lady who carried a fan. She lived in ages which are
past, and for the most part forgotten, and she was the daughter of a
Chinese Mandarin. Who ever saw a Mandarin, even on a tea-chest, without
his fan? In China and Japan to this day every one has a fan; and there
are fans of all sorts for everybody. The Japanese waves his fan at you
when he meets you, by way of greeting, and the beggar who solicits for
alms has the exceedingly small coin "made on purpose" for charity
presented to him on the tip of the fan.
In ancient times, amongst the Greeks and Romans, fans seem to have been
enormous; they were generally made of feathers, and carried by slaves
over the heads of their masters and mistresses, to protect them from the
sun, or waved about before them to stir the air.
Catherine de Medicis carried the first folding fan ever seen in France;
and in the time of Louis the Fourteenth the fan was a gorgeous thing,
often covered with jewels, and worth a small fortune. In England they
were the fashion in the time of Henry the Eighth. All his many wives
carried them, and doubtless wept behind them. A fan set in diamonds was
once given to Queen Elizabeth upon New-Year's Day.
The Mexican feather fans which Cortez had from Montezuma were marvels of
beauty; and in Spain a large black fan is the favorite. It is said that
the use of the fan is as carefully taught in that country as any other
branch of education, and that by a well-known code of signals a Spanish
lady can carry on a long conversation with any one, especially an
The Japanese criminal of rank is politely executed by means of a fan. On
being sentenced to death he is presented with a fan, which he must
receive with a low bow, and as he bows, presto! the executioner draws
his sword, and cuts his head off. In fact, there is a fan for every
occasion in Japan.