Niche script

By Wang Kaihao | China Daily | Updated: 2017-08-22 07:57

Niche script

Nushu characters, which in Chinese would mean "human is an integral part of nature". [Photo provided to China Daily]

The earliest known artifact in the Nushu script was a 1850s' coin. Though its history may date longer, its origin is unknown.

In an ongoing project hosted by Zhao, a phone app is being designed by Talkmate, a Beijing-based online language education platform, to teach Nushu to more people. Hu is also helping with the standard writing of the characters. The first edition of the app is scheduled to be released during the first Beijing International Language and Culture Expo in September.

Zhao expects the app to present a true image of Nushu for the public after myths about it have spread. For example, people often misjudge the characters as "symbols of some secret cult".

She says Nushu is not exclusive to any ethnic group as Jiangyong has a mixed population.

Though many old poems written in Nushu were women's autobiographies to talk about their difficulties in life, the professor says she didn't find suicidal thoughts expressed by the writers.

"The words were full of encouragement and positive energy, and showed an uncommon open mindedness among the women at the time," she says.

She says Nushu shows a sisterhood instead of the brotherhood usually referred to in Chinese culture. She considers it misleading that some novels and films have hinted at homo-sexuality while presenting the writing form.

"It created an atmosphere like the salon culture of the West," she says. "When women gathered to sing together, the courtyards became their classroom and a place to chat."

Ji Xianlin, the late historian and linguist, once said that Nushu is a feminist symbol.

"It's a unique writing system created by talented women who were deprived of the right to education," he wrote in an article. "It has significance in various fields like linguistics, anthropology, sociology and literature, and represents Chinese people's strong spirit."

Zhou Youguang, another late linguist, also said: "Nushu was an early-stage women's liberation tool."

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