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The Secret Language of Chinese Women

When I was a student, I remember reading about a secret language known only to Chinese women. I lost that article, and for many years, every time I brought it up in conversation, people would look at me strangely. No one had heard of anything like this — that the women of a society would have their own language which their menfolk knew nothing about. What more they had managed to keep this language a secret for a few hundred years.

I had almost forgotten about it, when last year, browsing through a bookstore, I came across the book Snowflower and the Secret Fan. It sounded sort of fairy-tale like (not my kind of book), so I almost put it back on the shelf. Then on an impulse I turned it around to read the synopsis. And there it was — the evidence to what I had been seeking information for so long. There did exist such a language and it was called Nu Shu. The author Lisa See based her book on her research about Nu Shu. Read more about Nu Shu here. Why did the women feel the need to form a secret language? Why did they hide it from the men? And who killed the language.

http://wikigender.org/w/index.php/Nu_shu:_The_Secret_Language_of_the_Chi...

Comments

Carri Pence's picture

That is amazing and I am so

That is amazing and I am so glad I read this entry because I have never heard of anything like Nu Shu. I wish we all had our secret language.

Rita Banerji's picture

revolution!

Yes it's amazing! Actually it was a silent revolution of the Chinese women because they were forbidden to read and write. So they formed this secret language and script to communicate with each other. I believe there was something like this in the Yucatan province of Mexico too though I have not been able find information on that yet. But Carrie if you can, do read the book Snowflower and the Secret Fan -- it is beautiful! Here are some passages from the book http://favoritepassages.wordpress.com/2010/03/26/snow-flower-and-the-sec...

Rita Banerji
www.ritabanerji.com

Cara Lopez Lee's picture

Inspiring Secret

Thanks so much for sharing this fascinating information, Rita. I've been doing research on China for a novel loosely based on my Mexican-Chinese family history, and I had not heard of the secret language of Nu Shu. Not that I would be using such information in my story, however, as a result of my own research I've developed a fascination with everything Chinese. I'm tickled to hear that "Snowflower and the Secret Fan" is based on this idea, as a friend gave it to me, and it's sitting in my "to-read" stack. I just pushed it to the top of that stack. I had read Lisa See's "Peony in Love," and it is based on the history of Chinese women who fought to share their scholarly power in the face of intense repression. Human resilience in the face of obstacles is amazing, isn't it?

Rita Banerji's picture

good to hear from you

hi Cara -- What a wonderfully rich cultural background -- Chinese and Mexican!! I bet you had a very interesting childhood. Books from outside are not easily available here in India but I will keep a look out for Peony in Love. And while doing your research if you find anything about the secret language of the Yucatan women in Mexico do let me know!

Rita Banerji
www.ritabanerji.com

Cara Lopez Lee's picture

Will Do

Haha, Rita - my background gets even more complex: also Irish, English, Swiss, French, and Cherokee. I am the American melting pot.

Another secret language for Mexican women! Wow, we women have had to sneak around a lot to be heard, haven't we? My Mexican heritage mostly focuses on Chihuahua and El Paso, but I'll keep my ear to the ground. Thanks for touching base. I'm honored.

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