Jiangyong Nu Shu is a disappearing language created by women for women
Jiangyong Nu Shu is a disappearing language created by women for women. Its very existence represents rebellion and independence, speaking for those who seek to express their inner self. Nu Shu inspires NVSHU.
Nu Shu has been used for centuries in Hunan Province in the southern region of China, but it is disappearing and a woman is trying to revive this part of her culture that is fading from memory. Unlike other written Chinese languages that use symbols, Nu Shu is phonetic.
It was invented by peasant women in Hunan's Jiangyong County hundreds of years ago. In those days, women did not have the same right to study in school as men, although they also wanted to express themselves and communicate with other women.
So they created a writing system just for women. Nu Shu practitioner Pu Lijuan learned to read, sing, and write Nu Shu from her mother, the highest-ranking Nu Shu practitioner. In tradition, the script has been passed down from mother to daughter.
However, that tradition has not survived, and therefore the culture is slowly fading to preserve the script. Pu Lijuan's mother has been offering Nu Shu lessons to the public. It has also become a mainstay of the tourism economy in Jiangyong County.
Nu Shu exists for women to express their emotions. She hopes to visualize this power with a dance called "noblewoman within the spirit of octagonal flowers."
Octagonal flowers are an important totem of Nu Shu culture. This totem symbolizes a spiritual community for women. All the women of the octagonal flower community enjoy a breath of freedom. By themselves, they can speak words and sing songs,” Pu Lijuan told TRT World.
Dance music mixes with the dancer scene. The lyrics describe the life of a peasant woman, how a girl grows into a truly powerful woman. The choreography not only tells the tradition but also embodies the support within the women's community.
“We consider Nu Shu as important as our lives and our children. It is very difficult for young women today to learn Nu Shu like we do,” revealed Pu Lijuan.
Then she added, “If my generation is the last to teach Nu Shu, I think this culture will soon die out. I would be very sad if that happened, but I couldn't do anything about it."
No man could read it. Not even the Emperor knew. It was a women's thing. It was among those sworn sister women. When they visited, they sang together. Nu Shu's words were written in a poetic format with seven characters per line and were sung rather than read.
Nu Shu was devastated during the revolutions that sought to liberate women. Although women began attending schools in the 1920s, Chinese was only taught after the fall of the feudal system. After communist liberation in 1949, Nu Shu customs were indiscriminately abolished.
Ironically, Nu Shu is syllabic and much more efficient than Chinese hieroglyph and is a modern alternative to this ancient form of writing. It also carries the soul of freedom and equality.
Above all, it demonstrates the ability of women to contribute to the advancement of civilization.