Over the years of Lily and Snow Flower's laotong relationship, the two pass notes back and forth to each other and record major life events in ink drawings and nu shu on a single silk fan. This fan, then, becomes a physical representation of their relationship, as well as an example of the nuance required to understand nu shu. The fan most importantly records the note that makes Lily believe that Snow Flower has joined a group of sworn sisters. Upon Snow Flower's death, the fan becomes incriminating evidence and a vehicle for Plum Blossom, Willow, and Lotus to impress upon Lily the damage she did to her relationship with Snow Flower and the importance of close reading. Finally, the fan stands as a condensed version of the novel itself, and through Lily's interpretation as an old woman, asserts again the importance of careful reading and deciphering language.
The Snow Flower and the Secret Fan quotes below all refer to the symbol of Lily and Snow Flower's Fan. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one: Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Random House edition of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan published in 2006.).
Daughter Days: Learning Quotes
The timeline below shows where the symbol Lily and Snow Flower's Fan appears in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Daughter Days: The Fan
...men) while Lily, Beautiful Moon, and Elder Sister chatter excitedly. Elder Sister asks what the fan says, but Lily can't read all the nu shu characters running down the first fold.... (full context)
Daughter Days: Love
Daughter Days: Learning
Hair-Pinning Days: Catching Cool Breezes
Hair-Pinning Days: Beautiful Moon
Hair-Pinning Days: The Flower-Sitting Chair
Hair-Pinning Days: Truth
Rice-and-Salt-Days: Joy and Sorrow
Rice-and-Salt Days: Winter
Rice-and-Salt Days: Letter of Vituperation
...Mid-Autumn festival, but Lotus appears on Lily's doorstep instead. She carries Lily and Snow Flower's fan wrapped in silk and gives it to Lily. Lily is suddenly afraid. She opens the... (full context)
Rice-and-Salt Days: Into the Clouds
...children. In Snow Flower's final hours, Lily reads their contract and happy parts from their fan. Snow Flower's skin turns golden and she finally stops breathing, surrounded by Lily, Spring Moon,... (full context)
Sitting Quietly: Regret