Nรผshu

Nรผshu
๐›†๐›ˆฌ
"Nรผshu" written in Nรผshu (right to left).
Type
syllabary
Languages Shaozhou Tuhua
Direction Left-to-right
ISO 15924 Nshu, 499
Unicode alias
Nushu

Nรผshu (simplified Chinese: ๅฅณไนฆ; traditional Chinese: ๅฅณๆ›ธ; pinyin: Nวšshลซ [nแปณส‚รบ]; literally: "women's script"), is a syllabic script derived from Chinese characters that was used exclusively among women in Jiangyong County in Hunan province of southern China.[1] Nรผshu has been included in the Unicode Standard since June 2017.

Features

Unlike the standard written Chinese, which is logographic (with each character representing a word or part of a word), Nรผshu is phonetic, with each of its approximately 600-700 characters representing a syllable. This is about half the number required to represent all the syllables in Tuhua, as tonal distinctions are frequently ignored, making it "the most revolutionary and thorough simplification of Chinese characters ever attempted".[2] Zhou Shuoyi, described as the only male to have mastered the script, compiled a dictionary listing 1,800 variant characters and allographs.[3]

It have been suggested that, Nรผshu characters appears to be an italic variant form of Kaishu Chinese characters,[1] as can be seen in the name of the script, though some have been substantially modified to better fit embroidery patterns. The strokes of the characters are in the form of dots, horizontals, virgules, and arcs.[4] The script is traditionally written in vertical columns running from right to left, but in modern contexts it may be written in horizontal lines from left to right, as is the case for Chinese. Unlike Chinese, Nรผshu writers value characters written with very fine, almost threadlike, lines as a mark of fine penmanship.

About half of Nรผshu is modified Chinese characters used logographically. In about 100, the entire character is adopted with little change apart from skewing the frame from square to rhomboid, sometimes reversing them (mirror image), and often reducing the number of strokes. Another hundred have been modified in their strokes, but are still easily recognizable, as is nรผ 'woman' above. About 200 have been greatly modified, but traces of the original Chinese character are still discernible.

The rest of the characters are phonetic. They are either modified characters, as above, or elements extracted from characters. There are used for 130 phonetic values, each used to write on average ten homophonous or nearly homophonous words, though there are allographs as well; women differed on which Chinese character they preferred for a particular phonetic value.[2]

History

It is not known when or how Nรผshu came into being, butโ€”because it is clearly based in the standard Chinese script, hanziโ€”Nรผshu could not have been created before standardization of hanzi (circa 900). Many of the simplifications found in Nรผshu had been in informal use in standard Chinese since the Song and Yuan dynasty (13th - 14th century). It seems to have reached its peak during the latter part of the Qing Dynasty (1644โ€“1911).[2]

Though a local educated worker at the Jiangyong Cultural Office (Zhou Shuoyi) had collected, studied and translated many Nรผshu texts into standard Chinese, he was unable to draw outside attention to the script until a report was submitted to the central government on this subject in 1983.

During the latter part of the 20th century, owing more to wider social, cultural and political changes than the narrow fact of greater access to hanzi literacy, younger girls and women stopped learning Nรผshu, and it began falling into disuse, as older users died. The script was suppressed by the Japanese during their invasion of China in the 1930s-40s, because they feared that the Chinese could use it to send secret messages., and also during China's Cultural Revolution (1966โ€“76).[4] The last original writers of the script died in the 1990s (the last one in 2004).

It is no longer customary for women to learn Nรผshu, and literacy in Nรผshu is now limited to a few scholars who learned it from the last women who were literate in it. However, after Yang Yueqing made a documentary about Nรผshu, the government of the People's Republic of China started to popularize the effort to preserve the increasingly endangered script, and some younger women are beginning to learn it.

Recent years

Yang Huanyi, an inhabitant of Jiangyong county, Hunan province and the last person proficient in this writing system, died on September 20, 2004, age 98.[5][6]

The language and locale have attracted foreign investment building up infrastructure at possible tourist sites and a $209,000 grant from the Ford Foundation to build a Nรผshu museum scheduled to open in 2007. However, with the line of transmission now broken, there are fears that the features of the script are being distorted by the effort of marketing it for the tourist industry.

Chinese composer Tan Dun has created a multimedia symphony entitled "Nu Shu: The Secret Songs of Women" for Harp, Orchestra, and 13 microfilms. Tan Dun spent 5 years conducting field research in Hunan Province, documenting on film the various songs the women use to communicate. Those songs become a 3rd dimension to his symphony, and are projected alongside the orchestra and harp soloist.

Lisa See describes the use of Nรผshu among 19th-century women in Snow Flower and the Secret Fan.

Adoption

The Nรผshu script is used to write a distinct local Chinese variety known as Xiangnan Tuhua (ๆน˜ๅ—ๅœŸ่ฉฑ, 'Southern Hunanese Tuhua') that is spoken by the people of the Xiao River and Yongming River region of northern Jiangyong County, Hunan.[7] This dialect, which differs enough from those of other parts of Hunan that there is little mutual intelligibility, is known to its speakers as [tifษฏษ™] "Dong language." It is written only in the Nรผshu script.[8] There are differing opinions on the classification of Xiangnan Tuhua, as it has features of several different Chinese varieties. Some scholars classify it under Xiang Chinese or Pinghua and other scholars consider it a hybrid dialect.[7] In addition to speaking Tuhua, most local people in Jiangyong are bilingual in the Hunan dialect of Southwestern Mandarin, which they use for communication with people from outside the area where Tuhua is spoken, as well as for some formal occasions.[7][9] If Hunan Southwestern Mandarin is written, then it is always written using standard Chinese characters and not with the Nรผshu script.[9]

Jiangyong County has a mixed population of Han Chinese and Yao people, but Nรผshu is used only to write the local Chinese dialect (Xiangnan Tuhua, ๆน˜ๅ—ๅœŸ่ฉฑ), and there are no known examples of the script being used to write the local Yao language.[10]

Works

A large number of the Nรผshu works were "third day missives" (ไธ‰ๆœไนฆ; ไธ‰ๆœๆ›ธ; sฤnzhฤoshลซ). They were cloth bound booklets created by laotong, "sworn sisters" (็ป“ๆ‹œๅงŠๅฆน; ็ตๆ‹œๅงŠๅฆน; jiรฉbร izวmรจi) and mothers and given to their counterpart "sworn sisters" or daughters upon their marriage. They wrote down songs in Nรผshu, which were delivered on the third day after the young woman's marriage. This way, they expressed their hopes for the happiness of the young woman who had left the village to be married and their sorrow for being parted from her.[11]

Other works, including poems and lyrics, were handwoven into belts and straps, or embroidered onto everyday items and clothing.

Nรผshu in Unicode

Nรผshu is included in the Unicode Standard under the name "Nushu" (because Unicode character names, block names, and script names can only use ASCII letters). 396 Nรผshu letters were added to the Nushu block as part of Unicode version 10.0 which was released in June 2017. An iteration mark for Nรผshu, U+16FE1 ๐–ฟก NUSHU ITERATION MARK, is in the Ideographic Symbols and Punctuation block.[12]

The Unicode block for Nรผshu is U+1B170โ€“U+1B2FF:

Nushu[1][2]
Official Unicode Consortium code chart (PDF)
 0123456789ABCDEF
U+1B17x ๐›…ฐ๐›…ฑ๐›…ฒ๐›…ณ๐›…ด๐›…ต๐›…ถ๐›…ท ๐›…ธ๐›…น๐›…บ๐›…ป๐›…ผ๐›…ฝ๐›…พ๐›…ฟ
U+1B18x ๐›†€๐›†๐›†‚๐›†ƒ๐›†„๐›†…๐›††๐›†‡ ๐›†ˆ๐›†‰๐›†Š๐›†‹๐›†Œ๐›†๐›†Ž๐›†
U+1B19x ๐›†๐›†‘๐›†’๐›†“๐›†”๐›†•๐›†–๐›†— ๐›†˜๐›†™๐›†š๐›†›๐›†œ๐›†๐›†ž๐›†Ÿ
U+1B1Ax ๐›† ๐›†ก๐›†ข๐›†ฃ๐›†ค๐›†ฅ๐›†ฆ๐›†ง ๐›†จ๐›†ฉ๐›†ช๐›†ซ๐›†ฌ๐›†ญ๐›†ฎ๐›†ฏ
U+1B1Bx ๐›†ฐ๐›†ฑ๐›†ฒ๐›†ณ๐›†ด๐›†ต๐›†ถ๐›†ท ๐›†ธ๐›†น๐›†บ๐›†ป๐›†ผ๐›†ฝ๐›†พ๐›†ฟ
U+1B1Cx ๐›‡€๐›‡๐›‡‚๐›‡ƒ๐›‡„๐›‡…๐›‡†๐›‡‡ ๐›‡ˆ๐›‡‰๐›‡Š๐›‡‹๐›‡Œ๐›‡๐›‡Ž๐›‡
U+1B1Dx ๐›‡๐›‡‘๐›‡’๐›‡“๐›‡”๐›‡•๐›‡–๐›‡— ๐›‡˜๐›‡™๐›‡š๐›‡›๐›‡œ๐›‡๐›‡ž๐›‡Ÿ
U+1B1Ex ๐›‡ ๐›‡ก๐›‡ข๐›‡ฃ๐›‡ค๐›‡ฅ๐›‡ฆ๐›‡ง ๐›‡จ๐›‡ฉ๐›‡ช๐›‡ซ๐›‡ฌ๐›‡ญ๐›‡ฎ๐›‡ฏ
U+1B1Fx ๐›‡ฐ๐›‡ฑ๐›‡ฒ๐›‡ณ๐›‡ด๐›‡ต๐›‡ถ๐›‡ท ๐›‡ธ๐›‡น๐›‡บ๐›‡ป๐›‡ผ๐›‡ฝ๐›‡พ๐›‡ฟ
U+1B20x ๐›ˆ€๐›ˆ๐›ˆ‚๐›ˆƒ๐›ˆ„๐›ˆ…๐›ˆ†๐›ˆ‡ ๐›ˆˆ๐›ˆ‰๐›ˆŠ๐›ˆ‹๐›ˆŒ๐›ˆ๐›ˆŽ๐›ˆ
U+1B21x ๐›ˆ๐›ˆ‘๐›ˆ’๐›ˆ“๐›ˆ”๐›ˆ•๐›ˆ–๐›ˆ— ๐›ˆ˜๐›ˆ™๐›ˆš๐›ˆ›๐›ˆœ๐›ˆ๐›ˆž๐›ˆŸ
U+1B22x ๐›ˆ ๐›ˆก๐›ˆข๐›ˆฃ๐›ˆค๐›ˆฅ๐›ˆฆ๐›ˆง ๐›ˆจ๐›ˆฉ๐›ˆช๐›ˆซ๐›ˆฌ๐›ˆญ๐›ˆฎ๐›ˆฏ
U+1B23x ๐›ˆฐ๐›ˆฑ๐›ˆฒ๐›ˆณ๐›ˆด๐›ˆต๐›ˆถ๐›ˆท ๐›ˆธ๐›ˆน๐›ˆบ๐›ˆป๐›ˆผ๐›ˆฝ๐›ˆพ๐›ˆฟ
U+1B24x ๐›‰€๐›‰๐›‰‚๐›‰ƒ๐›‰„๐›‰…๐›‰†๐›‰‡ ๐›‰ˆ๐›‰‰๐›‰Š๐›‰‹๐›‰Œ๐›‰๐›‰Ž๐›‰
U+1B25x ๐›‰๐›‰‘๐›‰’๐›‰“๐›‰”๐›‰•๐›‰–๐›‰— ๐›‰˜๐›‰™๐›‰š๐›‰›๐›‰œ๐›‰๐›‰ž๐›‰Ÿ
U+1B26x ๐›‰ ๐›‰ก๐›‰ข๐›‰ฃ๐›‰ค๐›‰ฅ๐›‰ฆ๐›‰ง ๐›‰จ๐›‰ฉ๐›‰ช๐›‰ซ๐›‰ฌ๐›‰ญ๐›‰ฎ๐›‰ฏ
U+1B27x ๐›‰ฐ๐›‰ฑ๐›‰ฒ๐›‰ณ๐›‰ด๐›‰ต๐›‰ถ๐›‰ท ๐›‰ธ๐›‰น๐›‰บ๐›‰ป๐›‰ผ๐›‰ฝ๐›‰พ๐›‰ฟ
U+1B28x ๐›Š€๐›Š๐›Š‚๐›Šƒ๐›Š„๐›Š…๐›Š†๐›Š‡ ๐›Šˆ๐›Š‰๐›ŠŠ๐›Š‹๐›ŠŒ๐›Š๐›ŠŽ๐›Š
U+1B29x ๐›Š๐›Š‘๐›Š’๐›Š“๐›Š”๐›Š•๐›Š–๐›Š— ๐›Š˜๐›Š™๐›Šš๐›Š›๐›Šœ๐›Š๐›Šž๐›ŠŸ
U+1B2Ax ๐›Š ๐›Šก๐›Šข๐›Šฃ๐›Šค๐›Šฅ๐›Šฆ๐›Šง ๐›Šจ๐›Šฉ๐›Šช๐›Šซ๐›Šฌ๐›Šญ๐›Šฎ๐›Šฏ
U+1B2Bx ๐›Šฐ๐›Šฑ๐›Šฒ๐›Šณ๐›Šด๐›Šต๐›Šถ๐›Šท ๐›Šธ๐›Šน๐›Šบ๐›Šป๐›Šผ๐›Šฝ๐›Šพ๐›Šฟ
U+1B2Cx ๐›‹€๐›‹๐›‹‚๐›‹ƒ๐›‹„๐›‹…๐›‹†๐›‹‡ ๐›‹ˆ๐›‹‰๐›‹Š๐›‹‹๐›‹Œ๐›‹๐›‹Ž๐›‹
U+1B2Dx ๐›‹๐›‹‘๐›‹’๐›‹“๐›‹”๐›‹•๐›‹–๐›‹— ๐›‹˜๐›‹™๐›‹š๐›‹›๐›‹œ๐›‹๐›‹ž๐›‹Ÿ
U+1B2Ex ๐›‹ ๐›‹ก๐›‹ข๐›‹ฃ๐›‹ค๐›‹ฅ๐›‹ฆ๐›‹ง ๐›‹จ๐›‹ฉ๐›‹ช๐›‹ซ๐›‹ฌ๐›‹ญ๐›‹ฎ๐›‹ฏ
U+1B2Fx ๐›‹ฐ๐›‹ฑ๐›‹ฒ๐›‹ณ๐›‹ด๐›‹ต๐›‹ถ๐›‹ท ๐›‹ธ๐›‹น๐›‹บ๐›‹ป
Notes
1.^ As of Unicode version 11.0
2.^ Grey areas indicate non-assigned code points

See also

Notes

  1. 1 2 Proposal text, slides), 2007-9-17
  2. 1 2 3 Zhao Liming, "The Women's Script of Jiangyong". In Jie Tao, Bijun Zheng, Shirley L. Mow, eds, Holding up half the sky: Chinese women past, present, and future, Feminist Press, 2004, pp. 39โ€“52. ISBN 978-1-55861-465-9
  3. โ†‘ "Last inheritress of China's female-specific languages dies". News.xinhuanet.com. 2004-09-23. Archived from the original on 2012-11-04. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  4. 1 2 Additional text - Chapter 12, An Introduction to Language and Linguistics, Jeff Connor-Linton and Ralph Fasold, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 978-0-521-84768-1
  5. โ†‘ "Language dies with woman". London: Observer.guardian.co.uk. 2004-09-26. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  6. โ†‘ Jon Watts (2005-09-22). "Jon Watts, The forbidden tongue, The Guardian 23 September 2005". London: Guardian. Retrieved 2012-10-03.
  7. 1 2 3 Zhao 2006, p. 162
  8. โ†‘ Chiang 1995, p. 20
  9. 1 2 Chiang 1995, p. 22
  10. โ†‘ Zhao 2006, p. 247
  11. โ†‘ A language by women, for women, Washington Post, Feb 24, 2004
  12. โ†‘ "Unicode 10.0.0". Unicode Consortium. June 20, 2017. Retrieved June 21, 2017.

References

  • Zhao, Liming ่ตตไธฝๆ˜Ž (2006). Nวšshลซ yรฒngzรฌ bวjiร o ๅฅณไนฆ็”จๅญ—ๆฏ”่พƒ [Comparison of the characters used to write Nรผshu] (in Chinese). Zhishi Chanquan Chubanshe. ISBN 978-7-80198-261-2.
  • Chiang, William Wei (1995). We two know the script; we have become good friends. University Press of America. ISBN 978-0-7618-0013-2.
  • Wilt L. Idema. Heroines of Jiangyong: Chinese Narrative Ballads in Women's Script. (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2009). ISBN 9780295988412
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