China Preserves World’s Only Women’s Language

Nu Shu, or Nüshu, meaning ‘female writing’, is believed to be the only language in the world used exclusively by women and is at risk of extinction.  In a bid to preserve it, China set up the Nüshu Culture Research Center, a special protection zone and museum in the Hunan province of the country.

Linguists believe that it is one of the oldest languages in the world, and that it was passed down from mothers to daughters in remote rural areas.  Traditional Chinese culture was male-centered and forbade girls from any kind of formal education, so Nushu, a writing system, was created in secrecy over hundred of years in the Jiangyong county of Hunan province.

Yang Huanyi, China’s last woman proficient in the mysterious language, died in 2004 in her 90’s.  Chinese linguists say her death put an end to a 400-year old tradition in which women shared their innermost feelings with female friends through a set of codes incomprehensible to men.

There is a documentary film about the language called ‘Nu Shu: A Hidden Language of Women In China’.

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