The character was originally used for writings slips made of wood (not bamboo, for which the word jian 簡 was used). It is interchangeable with the character jian 箋 (but not, if this word means "commentary" on a text). Other words for such addresses are jianbiao 牋表, jiandu 牋牘, jianji 牋記, jianjian 牋簡, jianqi 牋啓, jianxi 牋檄, jianzha 牋札/牋劄 or jianzou 牋奏.
Another meaning of the word jian was "private letter" (in the expression jianshu 牋書), and the third meaning, high-quality paper used for private letters. The expressions jianshu 牋疏 and zoujian 奏牋 were used to designate reports submitted to superior persons in the local and regional administration.