Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

Lily and Snow Flower's Fan Symbol Analysis

Lily and Snow Flower's Fan Symbol Icon

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.

Lily and Snow Flower's Fan Quotes in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

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:
Women and Gender Theme Icon
). 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

"Each word must be placed in context," she reminded us each day at the end of our lesson. "Much tragedy could result from a wrong reading."

Related Characters: Aunt (speaker), Lily , Snow Flower
Related Symbols: Lily and Snow Flower's Fan
Page Number: 69
Explanation and Analysis:

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Lily and Snow Flower's Fan Symbol Timeline in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan

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.
Sitting Quietly
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...for the first time when Snow Flower, her laotong (contractual best friend), sent Lily the fan that now sits on the table in front of her. Lily understands now that she... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Lily describes the fan for the reader, the text of which she has memorized. An elaborate design of flowers,... (full context)
Daughter Days: The Fan
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...her family may be less. Madame Wang calls Lily to her and gives her a fan, waving away Mama's concerns about a fee. Before she leaves, Madame Wang addresses Aunt and... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...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)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...compose a nu shu reply. Lily decides to not send her reply on a different fan, as is customary, but rather to send it back on the same fan. The note... (full context)
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
When Lily is finished with the fan and the shoes, she worries that Snow Flower's family won't accept the relationship. When Madame... (full context)
Daughter Days: Love
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
...Lily, and she wants to soar with Snow Flower. One day Madame Wang brings the fan, and Lily opens it to read a request from Snow Flower to come visit Lily's... (full context)
Daughter Days: Learning
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...losing their sister. Snow Flower reads the couplet that she and Lily wrote on their fan to commemorate the occasion. (full context)
Hair-Pinning Days: Catching Cool Breezes
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
...to their foot bindings and sleeping slippers, but are still far too warm. Snow Flower fans Lily with their fan, looking her naked body up and down. She licks her forefinger... (full context)
Hair-Pinning Days: Beautiful Moon
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...composed for Beautiful Moon's spirit, and when they return home, they write it on their fan and add a moon to the designs. Lily tells the reader that this tragedy can... (full context)
Hair-Pinning Days: The Flower-Sitting Chair
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...Flower guides Lily to the palanquin and helps her in, tucking a note and their fan inside Lily's jacket to read later. (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Lily reads the happy note from Snow Flower on the fan, and then turns to the embroidered note on a handkerchief. Snow Flower writes that Lily... (full context)
Hair-Pinning Days: Truth
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...over, and Lily returns to her natal family. When she arrives home, she opens the fan and, to mark Snow Flower’s marriage, writes about a phoenix soaring over a common rooster.... (full context)
Rice-and-Salt-Days: Joy and Sorrow
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...at all, but Lily and Snow Flower don't care. They mark the decision in their fan. (full context)
Rice-and-Salt Days: Winter
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
...of her reverie, and she and Lily return to the camp to write on their fan. The butcher and Snow Flower do bed business that night, and afterwards Snow Flower whispers... (full context)
Rice-and-Salt Days: Letter of Vituperation
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...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)
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...the letters from Snow Flower she can find with it. Lily cannot, however, find the fan, and Snow Flower continues to haunt her. (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...her it's too early to find Jade a marriage match. Madame Wang pulls out a fan and mentions the laotong match between Jade and Spring Moon. Lily asks for the fan... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Lily tosses the fan at Madame Wang. Madame Wang agrees to pass the message to Snow Flower, and then... (full context)
Rice-and-Salt Days: Into the Clouds
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...and one day, she arrives with a basket full of letters, embroideries, and the secret fan—all the things Lily couldn't find when she made the flower tower. Lily spends the last... (full context)
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...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)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...say that Snow Flower wasn't actually their sworn sister. Lily cites the message on her fan, and they ask to see it. Lily learns that Snow Flower taught Lotus, Plum Blossom,... (full context)
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
...Lily says her heart had been a shriveled old walnut. Lily goes home with the fan and writes on it that one day she hopes that she and Snow Flower will... (full context)
Sitting Quietly: Regret
Women and Gender Theme Icon
Love and Family Theme Icon
Language, Storytelling, and Communication Theme Icon
Pain, Suffering, and Coming of Age Theme Icon
Chinese Culture and Tradition Theme Icon
...felt as though she'd failed Snow Flower miserably, and recorded Spring Moon's death on their fan. (full context)