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Interesting Findings And World Unfolding Through My Eyes.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Keeping LanguageAlive

Nuzi, or "women's characters", were found in Jiangyong, Central China's Hunan Province in the 1980s and amazed anthropologists around the world.

"Nuzi is the only women's written language found in the world," says Cao Xuequn, a research fellow with the Hunan Provincial Museum. "We have found about 700 nuzi characters."

During the seminar on women's role held in Guiyang of Southwest China's Guizhou Province, Cao gave a speech on the past and present standing of nushu, a special term including the literature and decorative items with nuzi.

Cao says that nuzi was created by and studied among the women of Jiangyong, most of whom had no opportunity for education. Such characters, which have been used in Jiangyong and its neighboring areas for centuries, were not known by men or outsiders.

In the past, women in Jiangyong often studied nuzi after spinning and weaving. They used nuzi to document local stories and write about friendship among women.

Cao and his colleagues at the museum have collected some copies of Sanzhao Shu or "Three-day Book", a kind of album sent to a young woman three days after her marriage by her close women friends, which documented their memory of growing up together.

Since the late Qing Dynasty (1616-1911), school education became open to women in the local area, and nushu was less studied and used.

The political movements from the 1950s to the 1970s had an impact on the practice of nushu as folk festivals and folk music began to decline, resulting in the danger of nushu's disappearance.

In the 1980s when nushu was discovered by the outside world, it was only used among some elderly women in Jiangyong. Yang Huanyi, who learned nushu in the traditional way, died on September 20, 2004 at the age of 98. To save nushu from extinction, Cao and his colleagues started the "project on documenting the culture of Jiangyong nushu".

Besides collecting nushu, the project also includes establishing a museum and website of nushu, renewing local festivals that are related to nushu and teaching locals the unique written characters.

"A product of local women's pursuit of equality and longing for culture, nushu has special meanings in the cultural history of women in China and in the world," Cao says

Posted by Ajay :: 5:25 PM :: 0 comments

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