Nüshu (女书) Nüshu (女书)

Nüshu is a syllabic script created and used exclusively by women in Jiangyong Prefecture, Hunan Province, China. The women were forbidden formal education for many centuries and developed the Nüshu script in order to communicate with one another. They embroidered the script into cloth and wrote it in books and on paper fans.

Nüshu was mainly used in the creation of San Chao Shu (三朝書) or "Third Day Missives", cloth-bound booklets created by mothers to give to their daughters upon their marriage, or by woman to give to their close female friends. The San Chao Shu contained songs written in the Nüshu script expressing hopes and sorrow, and was delivered on the third day after a woman's marriage.

The last proficient user of Nüshu, Yang Huanyi, died on 20th September 2004 at the age of 98. More details

Recently there has been a revival of interest in Nüshu and a number of women are studying it and using it again. More details

Notable features
  • Type of writing system: syllabic
  • Number of symbols: 600-700
  • Direction of writing: vertical columns running from top to bottom and from right to left.
  • Many Nüshu characters are based on Chinese characters, while some are modelled on embroidery stitches and designs.
  • Nüshu characters represent pronunciation, unlike Chinese characters, which represent pronunciation and meaning.
  • Nüshu was taught to women by their mothers or grandmothers.

Used to write

Xiangnan Tuhua (湘南土話) or 'Southern Hunanese Tuhua', a variety of Chinese spoken in the Xiao and Yongming River region of northern Jiangyong County in Hunan. Speakers of this language call it Dong language [tifɯə], and it is unintelligible with the Xiang dialect of southern Hunan.

A selection of Nüshu characters and their Chinese equivalents

A selection of Nüshu characters and their Chinese equivalent

Sample text in Nüshu with Chinese translation

Sample text in Nüshu with Chinese translation

Another Sample text in Nüshu

Sample text in Nüshu

Translation

Beside a well,
one does not thirst.
Beside a sister,
one does not despair.

Nüshu text by Professor Zhao Liming, via Tim Brookes at The Endangered Alphabets Project


Links

Information about Nüshu
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%BCshu_script
http://english.chinese.cn/chineseculture/article/2011-07/14/content_296740.htm
http://www.theworldofchinese.com/2012/08/nushu-the-poetic-diary-of-a-subdued-sex/

Some information about the Nüshu script
http://www.socialstudiesforkids.com/articles/currentevents/nushu1.htm

Syllabaries

Bamum, Blackfoot, Caroline Island Script, Carrier, Celtiberian, Cherokee, Cree, Cypriot, Eskayan, Hiragana, Iberian, Inuktitut, Katakana, Kpelle, Loma, Mende, Mwangwego, Ndjuká, Nüshu, Ojibwe, Vai, Yi