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Nu shu

Nu Shu (女书 pinyin: nü3 shu1), literally means "Women's writing", is a writing system that was used exclusively among women in a few remote villages of southern China.

Unlike the standard written Chinese, which is logographic (each character representing a word or part of a word), Nu Shu is roughly phonetic, with each of its approximately 700 characters representing a syllable. Although some Nu Shu characters appear to have been derived from standard Chinese characters, most are unrelated.

In much of China, women were discouraged from writing; Nu Shu was hence invented and used secretly, and carefully guarded from men. Often the characters were disguised as decorative marks or as part of artwork. Although Nu Shu has existed for centuries, it was not known to most of the world until recently, due to the intense secrecy regarding the language.

After the Chinese Revolution, literacy spread among women, and Nu Shu fell into disuse, so that at present only a handful of old women are capable of reading it. Tragically, thousands of Nu Shu manuscripts were destroyed during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.

External Links

  • The World of Nu Shu (http://www2.ttcn.ne.jp/~orie/home.htm): a detailed history of Nu Shu and numerous illustrations.
  • 6-paragph article (http://www.ancientscripts.com/nushu) of AncientScripts.com



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