Nüshu is a form of writing that was devised by women and only used by women, in a small area of the Chinese province of Hunan. The word means ‘Women’s writing.’ Little is known about its origins, but there is evidence it dates at least to the middle 1800s and was used well into the 20th century.
It has only attracted scholarly research since the 1980s, but had been studied by amateurs several decades before. Nushu is a simplified form of the famous Chinese characters.
The script has about a thousand characters, and is syllabic. It was a way for women to be able to write in a time and place where literacy among women was not considered very appropriate. Men could have read it, because it wasn’t a secret, but no men seem to have been interested.
Most of the literature in Nüshu seems to be written for women by other women, often presented to a newlywed woman. Nüshu was used for diaries and letters, among other uses. It is the only known system of writing used only by women. It seems to be dying out.
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