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Nüshu Script, an Ancient Chinese Female Language

Remember when you were a kid and you were playing with friends? You created some characters and special scripts to code your messages and send information which no one besides you and your friend can understand. Can you imagine that the same would be created for women? Can you imagine that girls can communicate in different language?

In fact, something like this was created and it was nüshu script.


Nüshu script was a syllabic script used by women in Jiangyong in Hunan Province. There are a lot of opinions about how and when this script was created. Some scholars say that Nüshu is a Xiang Chinese and Pinghua hybrid. We also know that this script couldn't be created before hanzi because it is based on this. Then we can say that Nüshu could be created between Song and Yuan Dynasties (13th – 14th century).


Traditional Chinese culture is male-centered, in the past women weren't allowed to study, write, and teach so they created something which opened their door to culture and communication. Thanks to Nüshu, ladies started to write poems, letters, they could make beautiful ornaments on embroidery. Script was learned from mother to daughter, girlfriend to girlfriend, never ever showed to boys.


The most popular example of using Nüshu script is Sanzhaoshu (third-day book). Sanzhaoshu was a book prepared by family of bride as an element of tradition. Books were read only by females on the third day after wedding in a bride's house. They included list of virtues, rules and tasks for new brides.


By the time, more and more girls had possibility to learn hanzi, so Nüshu began falling into disuse. The last woman, who learned Nüshu in natural way (aunts and grandmother in home) - Yang Huanyi - died in 2004. Some women still can use the script but they only do it for research purposes.


In 2002 Nushu Eco-museum was build in Puwei Village (memorable nushu county) in order to protect a culture of nushu. Visitors can learn their details about script. There are 600-700 characters, some characters are taken from Chinese, others were invented.

More info about Nüshu you can find on: http://homepage3.nifty.com/nushu

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