The secret language of Chinese women – Nushu

by Meg on November 8, 2011

Did you ever want to make up a secret language with your best girlfriend growing up?  I know my friend and I got into secret codes for a while and thought it would be awesome to communicate that way with notes we passed to each other.  Well, for a group of women in China (dating back possibly as early as 900 AD), they did make a secret language.  Nu shu actually means “Women’s Language” in Chinese and believed to be the only single sex language in existence.  The language was born out of the fact that women were forbidden from education or blocked from becoming literate.  A women’s life was one that eventually she was separated from her own family and friends once she was married, and moved to a far away town to a life of being an indentured servant to her husband and/or a life with bound feet.  Sisters, grandmothers, mothers, aunts, all worked together to pass down the language.  My favorite in learning about this language was learning about “sworn sisters”.  They were women who were best friends and vowed to keep in touch with what was going on in their lives.  Something just makes my heart happy to know that women worked together to create a life and literacy for themselves in the face of massive sexism.




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