From Tales of Rokugan

Info provided by Jeanne Kalvar (Kakita Kaori)

The Language of the Fan

A fan is the essential tool of the courtier in Rokugan. Words whispered behind the fan are considered to be private, and it would be rude to be seen to be overhearing such conversations. Fans can mask a smile or a frown. The paintings on a fan can indicate disposition or desires which cannot be spoken of directly. Fans serve as part of many elegant dances among the artisans, just as they are used for signalling troops on the battlefield,

Some clans, especially the Crane, have entire complex means of communication that can be conducted by the gestures made by a fan, as well as symbolism. While this full language of cadence may be exclusive to the Crane, certainly every other clan's courtiers have shared gestures made with the fan that may be used to communicate in court. Each court might have its own set of gestures.

Below is a possible set of gestures that Rokugani courtiers may use to communicate their intentions by fan. [Note: Most of these gestures are from Victorian fan language, but have been reinterpreted for Rokugan.]

  • To open the hand fan with the left hand. Come and talk to me.
  • To hold the fan, closed, against the shoulder. Stay with me and listen.
  • To hold it next to the left ear. I want you to leave me alone.
  • To let slide it on the forehead. You have changed your mind?
  • Twirling the fan with the left hand. They are watching us.
  • Twirling the fan with the right hand. You are imprudent.
  • Quickly and impetuously closing the fan. I am angry with you.
  • To tap the fan against any object. I am impatient.
  • To hold the fan closed, handle up, in front of the body. Do you wish to speak to me in private?
  • To let slide it on the eyes. Please divert the person that I indicate or that I am speaking with.
  • To touch the edge of the hand fan with the fingers. I want to talk to you privately.
  • To hold it on the right cheek. Yes.
  • To hold it on the left cheek. No.
  • Hitting the hand’s palm: Stop this!
  • To leave the fan hanging. We will continue being friends.
  • To fan slowly. I am supportive of you in this and it is going well.
  • To fan quickly. I support you but this is going badly.
  • To hold the fan to the lips. Be silent and say nothing.
  • To open the fan very slowly. Wait for me.
  • To go to the entrance, slowly fanning, and then coming back, shutting the screen behind them. I can't leave.
  • To go to the entrance, quickly fanning, and then coming back, leaving the screen open behind them. I will leave soon.
  • To strike it, closed, on back of the left hand. Write me.
  • To semi-close it in the right and on the left. I can't.
  • To hold it opened, covering the mouth. I want to say something, but I can't.
  • To tuck the fan under the arm. We are in danger.