Introduction to New Bookg—•¶ŽšŒ¤‹†h,

The present state of  Nushu in 2002



1.      Introduction to my New Book g’†‘—•¶ŽšŒ¤‹†h (The Research on Nushu Chinese Womenfs Script)@


    Since I started a field survey on the Chinese womenfs script, Nushu —‘, in the Peoplefs Republic of China in 1993, I have heard and learned so much about Nushu while conducting a series of field surveys that I have recently published my research in book form.  I would like to introduce the outline of the book. The following are its contents.


Chapter ‡T  The Outline of the Chinese Womenfs Script

1.        The Areas Where the Script Was Transmitted

2.        The Women in Those Areas

3.        The Conditions for Creating the Script—

      Jiejiao ZimeiŒ‹ŒðŽo–… (Sworn Sisterhood)

4.        The gUnhappinessh of Marriage

5.        The Records Written in the Script by Common People 

6.        How the Script Was Born and San Chao Shu

    ŽO’©‘ (Third Day Missives)


Chapter ‡U@The Present Situation of the Womenfs Script

1.        The Situation of the Surviving Script

2.        The Transmitters of the Script

3.        The Present Situation of the Script


Chapter ‡V  The Situation of Research on the Womenfs Script

1.        The History of Research

2.        The Bibliographical Notes of the Script (in Chinese)

3.        The Bibliographical Notes of the Script (in English or other European Languages )

4.        The Bibliographical Notes of the Script (in Japanese)


Chapter ‡W@

   The Materials about the Womenfs Script@

1.        The Facts of San Chao Shu

    ŽO’©‘ (Third Day Missives)

2.        The Autobiography Written in the Script

3.        Anti-Japanese Songs


The List of the Characters -

That Ms. He Yanxin ‰½‰V Can Write

1.        Arranged in the Order of Strokes  

2.@   Arranged-

@@in the Order of Pronunciation


@@ As far as I know, there are nine books on the womenfs script, Nushu —‘, which were published in China, but my book is different from them in four points: the situation of the surviving script in Chapter ‡U, the bibliographical notes in Chapter ‡V, the autobiography in Chapter ‡W, and the list of characters Ms. He Yanxin can write. 

   In Chapter‡U, the situation of the surviving script reports how I gathered information and data on the womenfs script: I visited 71 villages in China and interviewed elders of the villages 117 times in total.  During the surveys, I could find and investigate Ms. He Yanxin ‰½‰V, who may be the few remaining transmitters of the script.

   Chapter ‡V introduces some research books published in China, written in English, German, Dutch and Japanese respectively, and their contents in brief.@

   Chapter ‡W shows the autobiography written by Ms. Yi Nienhua‹`”N‰Ø and that written by Ms. He Yanxin‰½‰V later than 1996, which I collected myself.  In this chapter, I also deal with other biographies collected by Chinese researchers, but the above two persons are not found in their books.  

   In the last part of the book, the list of the characters shows all that Ms. He Yanxin ‰½‰V can write, where they are arranged in the orders of strokes and pronunciation.@Chinese researchers also make lists of characters, but it is not clear by whom or when they were written, and therefore, there are more than 1,500 characters found in some lists.  It is because there were many writers who wrote characters in different ways, and they were listed without putting in order.  The list that I published this time includes only 465 characters, which are those written by Ms. He Yanxin alone, and the different characters were put together and arranged.  Although the characters are small in number, I wanted to record them as those of the last person who can hand them down.

   As this book is a special research book, the number of copies published was limited and its price became very expensive at \16,000 a copy to my regret.  If you are interested in the matter, I hope you will ask your library or study office to buy one.


2.  Some of the Latest News Articleson the Womenfs Script


 I would like to give some information about the latest news about the Nush womenfs script.  In China, the script has not often been reported on TV so far and has not been known well among common people.  However, recently it has come to be taken up in many places.  The latest news articles about the script that I got is as mentioned below.  Those in Chinese were offered by Ms. Sun Qi‘·ûg,a Chinese student of Waseda University, and those in English were offered by Mr. Dr. Hidasi Judit, a guest professor of Kanda University of International Studies.  I very much appreciate their kind cooperation.@


[From the web site: URL:]


‡@        March 25, 2002  gExperts in Hubei ProvinceŒÎ–kÈ are devoting themselves to save the worldfs only womenfs script g(New China NetworkV‰Ø–ԁFDai Jinsong ‘Õ™¤¼CShi ZhiyongÎŽu—E)@

‡A        April 3, 2002  gLetfs save the worldfs only mysterious womenfs scripth ( V•·í•ñFWang Qifei ‰¤é‡”ò)

‡B        April 17, 2002  gHunan ProvinceŒÎ“ìÈ allocated a huge amount of money to construct a cultural protection zone for gNushu—‘g (Hunan Daily News ŒÎ“ì“ú•ñFHui Henglin˜ðt—Ñ)

‡C        May 21, 2002  gThe only living transmitter of the womenfs script has fallen ill in bed.  Handing down the script is fearedh (Xiao Yemingª–é–¾)

‡D        May 24, 2002  gResearch on the womenfs script has just started, but vital   

    problems have not been solved yeth (San Xiang City DailyŽOÃ“sŽs•ñF 

    Xiao Yemingª–é–¾)


[From newspapers]


‡E    April 19, 2002  gYao women-only tongue in danger g(The Japan Times) AFP, Beijing

‡F May 3, 2002   gChinafs women-only language is dyingh (reprinted from 

   The Japan Times=Los Angeles Times)  Henry Chu

‡G    May 8, 2002  gSave the mysterious and valuable womenfs scripth (Beijing Daily News–k‹ž“ú•ñFFan Tao”Í““)


     In these news articles, ‡B and ‡G partially overlap each other.  As the news articles ‡F was reprinted from an American newspaper, it shows that the number of people who are interested in the script is increasing in America, China and Japan.  I will introduce in detail some of the news articles which seem to be interesting as follows:

    The news article ‡@ is about an interview with Mr. Ye Xumin —t–¯, Assistant Chief of the Research Center for Womenfs Script Culture of South China Ethnological Academy’†“ì–¯‘°Šw‰@—‘•¶‰»Œ¤‹†ƒZƒ“ƒ^[@in Wuhan City•Š¿Žs


    gOn May 25, 2001, a forum on how to save the Chinese womenfs script 

  and a national science symposium on womenfs script were held by the 

  South China Ethnological Academy ’†“ì–¯‘°Šw‰@, where the participants

  presented a proposal titled gthe process for saving the Chinese womenfs

  script cultureh ’†‘—‘•¶‰»‹~oH’öto the whole society, expecting the

  whole society to have interest in the womenfs script gNushu—‘h and to

  take positive and effective measures to save the script.

    The experts proposed to organize ga study council for the Chinese

  womenfs scripth and to gather all those who are interested in the gNushu

  —‘h under a soft form of organization.  The Research Center for 

  Womenfs Script Culture of South China Ethnological Academy ’†“ì–¯‘°Šw

  ‰@—‘•¶ ‰»Œ¤‹†ƒZƒ“ƒ^[ is  planning to organize an editorial conference

  for gthe research library of Chinese womenfs script cultureh ’†‘—‘•¶‰»

  Œ¤‹†‘p‘jointly with Jiang Yong District Peoplefs Government ]‰iŒ§l–¯

  ­•{ to compile the library incorporating extensive original Nushu —‘ 

  script materials and documents available.  They will make this an initial

  step in gthe process for saving the Chinese womenfs script cultureh ’†‘—



   I hear that in addition to compiling gthe libraryh with eight million characters,  gthe processh includes such important projects as founding the worldfs leading museum for Chinese womenfs script, developing Jiang Yong cultural tour scenery zone ]‰i•¶‰»—·—V•—Œi’n‹æ and holding an international science symposium on Nushu—‘.@  

   The news item ‡A reports of what they heard in the interview with Ms. He Jinghua ‰½Ã‰Ø and Ms. He Yanxin‰½‰V who can write the script, and also of the talk by Professor Xie ZhiminŽÓŽu–¯ of the South China Ethnological Academy ’†“ì–¯‘°Šw‰@.  It reports of Professor Xiefs impression when he touched the script for the first time and of his opinion that the script is older than inscriptions on bones and tortoise carapacesbœ•¶Žš•¶Žš.


     gProf. Xie Zhimin ŽÓŽu–¯and Prof. Ye Xumin—t–¯ jointly made a

   remarkable discovery that the type of the script leaves vestiges of totems. 

   Totems appeared only in the pre-historic cultures such as Egyptian script, 

   Mayan Civilization and inscriptions on bones and tortoise carapaces.

@ Prof. Xie Zhimin told the reporter: gThe Nushu —‘h hints that there is a

   possibility that the totem gbirdsh used to be worshipped.  For example,

   g“ªh (head) of the womenfs script is a hieroglyph of a birdfs head, and the 

   g“ªh transformed from its inscription on a bone and tortoise carapace is a

   hieroglyph of a human head.  Also g‘́h (body) is a hieroglyph of a birdfs

   body, and g‘́h of the ordinary Chinese character is a hieroglyph of a

   human body.

     gŒNh (lord) is a hieroglyph of two birds put side by side, and gŒNh of the

   ordinary Chinese character is a hieroglyph of a person with a writing

   brush in his mouthh.

     Prof. Xie Zhimin told the reporter in an excited tone: gThe system of the

   inscriptions on bones and tortoise carapaces shows that human beings

   were worshipped, and Nushu —‘ shows that birds were worshipped. 

   If these inferences of mine finally turn out to be correct, the foundation of

   the Chinese orthography endorsed by the system of the inscriptions on

   bones and tortoise carapaces would be smashed by the discovery that

    Nushu —‘ is the product of totem worship.h


    The news item ‡C reports that Ms. Yang Huanyi —zà…‹X, the oldest transmitter of the womenfs script, was injured.


       gThe transmission of the womenfs script only in the world is now 

    endangered.  The only transmitter of the script Ms. Yang Huanyi —zà…

    ‹X, 97 (Her correct age is 93 because she was born in 1909: note by

    Endo) , living in Tong Shan Lang Nong Chang, Jiang Yong District ]‰i

    Œ§“ºŽR—ä”_ê, got injured in her fall a few days ago and has not been able

    to get up since then.

       As the only living transmitter of the womenfs script, she has received

    many womenfs script researchers from all over the world.  According to

    her son, she got injured when she fell down in her home and has been in

    bed suffering a pain in her leg since two days later. @@

      She sang a poem about the womenfs script for me in an inaudible voice

    of an old woman with the sky glowing in the setting sun.  The poem

    means that she is very much worried if she would be able to continue to 

    transmit the script according to the interpretation by Mr. Zhou Shuoyi

    Žü×Ÿ‹, an old specialist of Jiang Yong District Culture Center ]‰iŒ§•¶

    ‰»ŠÙ who has been studying the script for 40 years and accompanied the

    reporter this time.h 


    Being anxious about her condition, Endo asked Prof. He Hong Yi ‰½gˆêof the Research Center for Womenfs Script Culture of South China Ethnological Academy ’†“ì–¯‘°Šw‰@—‘•¶‰»Œ¤‹†ƒZƒ“ƒ^[ and relieved for the time being to hear that she was not in such serious condition.

    The news articles ‡B, ‡E and ‡G in the Hunan Daily NewspaperŒÎ“ì“ú•ñreport that a movement for preserving the script has came out as follows:


       gOn April 16 the reporter heard from the Agency for Cultural Affairs 

    •¶‰»’¡of Hunan Province ŒÎ“ìÈ that they had made a plan to build a

    womenfs script cultural ecology protection zone in Jiang Yong District]

    ‰iŒ§.  An application for funding has already been filed with the

    Edward Ford Foundation through the Cultural Affairs Department •¶‰»

    •” of the Chinese Government.  The general plan for the gwomenfs

    script cultural ecology protection zoneh consists of two contents: the

    ecology protection of the existing condition and the secondary ecology

    protection.  In the former plan, the ecology protection of the womenfs

    script will be carried out in Shang Jiang Xu Zhenã]šÐ’Á where the

    script was transmitted, and the construction of an outdoor museum for

    the script is also being planned.

       The secondary ecological protection will be implemented fully

    understanding the cultural characteristic of the script.  Hunan

    Province will entrust Yong Zhou City Museum ‰iBŽs”Ž•¨ŠÙ to collect

    and store the cultural remains of the script and to display them as a

    special womenfs script culture.  For the purpose of active development

    and protection of the womenfs script culture, they will promote cultural

    exchange with foreign countries, and hold international symposiums,

    compile and publish old documents and research materials concerning

    the script, and organize public demonstrations of the script culture.  

       To realize all of these plans, they will invest 9 million Yuan.  At

    present, arranging all the concerned items, they are making a

    construction plan in a hurry. g


   The news article ‡D is about some refutations against the opinions by the researchers of the Womenfs Script Cultural Center of South China Ethnology Academy, especially Prof. Xie Zhimin ŽÓŽu–¯ stating that the history of the script is older than the inscriptions on bones and tortoise carapaces and is that of a minority race Yaozuꢑ°.


      gWhen was the womenfs script created?  Was it earlier than the

   inscriptions on bones and tortoise carapaces?  What is the relation

   between the script and the printed style of Chines characters?  Does the

   script have any connection with Yaozu ꢑ° ?  The reporter asked such

   questions to several Chinese scholars in interviews with them, but so far 

   there have been no conclusion to these problems.  It is still a mystery.

      In response to a telephone interview, prominent Prof. Zho Limingæâ—í

   –¾ of Qinhua University ´‰Ø‘åŠw told the reporter as follows:

   The womenfs script is highly worth studying, but at present it is in the

   elementary phase of research and a series of important problems have

   not yet been resolved. In addition, she emphasized that especially we

   must be cautious not to make two errors in the course of studying the

   script.  One is that we had better not jump to the conclusion that the

   womenfs script was created earlier than the inscriptions on bones and  

   tortoise carapaces.  There is no one who approves such a conclusion

   among the researchers including the Social Science Academy of China

   ’†‘ŽÐ‰ï‰ÈŠw‰@ and Beijing University –k‹ž‘åŠw.  The other is that we     

   had better not say that the script is of Yozufs. 

       Mr. Zhou Shuoyi Žü×Ÿ‹, an old specialist of Jiang Yong District

   Culture Center ]‰iŒ§•¶‰»ŠÙ who has been studying the script for 40

   years, also takes a similar view, saying that deeper research about the

   script is expected and a too hasty  conclusion would lead to our not

   taking the responsibility for our history.  Mr. Yang Renli—km—¢, chief of

   the ethnic committee of Jiang Yong District ]‰iŒ§–¯‘°ˆÏˆõ‰ï says that

   it is absurd to remark that the womenfs script is of Yaozufs.  He also says

   that we should pursue learning seriously and should not express such an  

   opinion freely before ascertaining the historical evidence.  

        There is a big gap among various theories about the womenfs script.                    

    There is a disparity of more than 2,500 years between the opinions of

    Prof. Xie Zhimin, et al that the script has a history of 3,000 years and

    those of Prof. Gong Zhebing ‹{“N•º, et al. that the script was created in

    the late era of the Ching Dynasty ´’©.

        Moreover, the researchers of the South China Ethnological Academy

     ’†“ì–¯‘°Šw‰@ hold the opinion that the womenfs script is of Yaozu ꢑ°,

     but Prof. Zho Limingæâ—í–¾ and Mr. Yang Renli—km—¢ deny it.  About

     this problem, I (Endo) asked Prof. Mao Zongwu–я@• of the

     Ethnological Research Institute of the China Social Science Academy

     ’†‘ŽÐ‰ï‰ÈŠw‰@–¯‘°Œ¤‹†Š and an expert on Yaozu and its language in

     March, 1996.  He answered: gIt is absolutely impossible that the script

     is of Yaozu.  I listened to the audio tape on which the songs written in

     the script were recorded, but I could not find any words similar to the

     Yaozu tongue on the tape for two hours.  Yaozu once had characters,

     but they were used only for recording their own history by gŽtŒöh in a

     particular class.  They were never used in their daily life.h


3.  Books on the Chinese Womenfs Script


    The following are books on the Womenfs script, published in China, America, Holland., Australia and Japan.  There are many papers on the subject printed in Journals, but they are left out herein.


In Chinese:


Gong Zhebing


Funu wenzi he Yaozu qianjia dong

Zhongguo zhanwang chubanshe









Women's Script and Qian Jia Dong of the Yao Nationality





 (Zhongguo zhanwang chubanshe ’†‘“W–]o”ÅŽÐ)



Gong Zhebing &


Nushu--yige jingren de faxian

Huazhong shifan daxue chubanshe


Zhao Liming







Women's Script:  An amazing Discovery





 (Huazhong shifan daxue chubanshe‰Ø’†Žt”Í‘åŠwo”ÅŽÐ)



Edited by Gong Zhe Bing


Nushu--shijie weiyi de nuxing wenzi

Taiwan funu xinzhi jijinhui









The Unique Nushu: The Only Women's Script in the World





 (Taiwan funu xinzhi jijinhui ‘ä˜p•w—V’mŠî‹à‰ï)



Gong Zhebing


Nuxing wenzi yu nuxing shehui

Xinjiang renmin chubanshe









Women's Language and their Society





 (Xinjiang renmin chubanshe V‹®l–¯o”ÅŽÐ)



Edited by Shijinbo, Zhao


Qite de nushu

Beijing yuyan xueyuan chubanshe


Liming et al.







The Mistery of Nushu -the Women's Script





 (Beijing yuyan xueyuan chubanshe –k‹žŒ¾ŒêŠw‰@o”ÅŽÐ)



Xie Zhimin


Jiangyong nushu zhi mi

Henan renmin chubanshe









The Conundrum of "Women's Script" in Jiang‚™ong





 (Henan renmin chubanshe  ‰Í“ìl–¯o”ÅŽÐ)



Edited by Yan Renli, Zhou


Yongming nushu

Yuelu shushe


Shuoyi et al.







Women's  Sript in Yong‚ing  (Yuelu shushe@Šx˜[‘ŽÐ)



Edited by Zhao Li‚ing


Zhong‚‡uo nushu jicheng










 Collection of Chinese Nushu





  (Qinghua daxue chubanshe ´‰Ø‘åŠwo”ÅŽÐ)



Zhao Li‚ing


Nushu yu nushu wenhua










Women's Script and the Culture of Women's Script



In English, German and Dutch:


Chang, William Wei


hWe two know the script:  we have become good friends: 




linguistic and social aspects of the women's script literacy




in southern Hunan, China.''  Ph.D. dissertation, Yale Univ.


Silber , Cathy


hFrom daughter to daughter-in-law in the women's script of 




southern Hunan''  pp.47-68 in Endagering China:




Women, Culture and State''  (Harvard University Press)


Silber, Cathy


hNushu (Chinese Women's Script) Literacy and Literatureh




PH. D. dissertation, Michigan University


W. L.idema


hVrouwen-schrift Vriendschap,  huwelijk en wanhoop van




Chinese vrouwen, opgetekend in een eigen schrift.h 






Benedikta Dorer


Schreibende Frauen,  Geschriebene Frauen --




Aspecte der Frauenschrift




Nushu und ihres sozialen  Kontekst, Diplomarbeit




(Universitat Wien)

In Japanese


Endo Orie


Chugoku no onna moji -- densho suru chugoku josei--








Chinese Women's Script--Transmitted by Local Chinese    




Women (San-ichi Shobo ŽOˆê‘–[j


Endo Orie


Chugoku Onnamoji Kenkyu








Research on Chinese Women's Script (Meiji Shoin –¾Ž¡‘‰@j


Last Update: 2002/08/17 14:05