The Report on the Present Situation of Nushu —‘and Its International Symposium Held in China


    I would like to report on the present situation of the Nushu —‘transmitters including Ms. Yang Huanyi —zà…‹Xand the gInternational Symposium on Jiang Yong Nushu]‰i—‘h held in Chiang Yong Prefecture]‰iŒ§, Hunan PorvinceŒÎ“ìÈ in the Peoplefs Republic of China from November 19 to 22, 2002, which I took part in.


‡T The present situation of the Nushu transmitters


‡@Ms.Yang Huanyi—zà…‹Xiborn in 1909j

     I read the news on the homepage http// dated May 21, 2002 reporting that she had been injured in a fall gto endanger the worldfs only Nushu —‘transmitter!h  Later, I contacted the prefectural government about her condition via Beijing–k‹žto find her injury was not fatal.  I was anxious about her health because she has suffered from a serious illness many times so far due to her great age of 93.

     On November 21, I called on Ms. Yang Huanyi—zà…‹X at Tongshanling Farm“ºŽR—ä”_ê. When Ms. Pu NianxianŠ—”Oæ, my translator of the native language, called out to her in front of her house, the wife of her late son came out from the next-door house.  Guessing the object of our visit at once, she showed us to a brick hut in the corner of the tangerine orchard and opened its door to call Ms. Yang Huanyi —zà…‹X.  At almost the same time, she appeared at the entrance.  She looked to have become a size smaller than last year, and at once, she recognized us with a smile.  Immediately I gave her a helping hand, and we walked slowly to her main house together.  She could walk by herself as supported, although slowly. 

    After having entered her house, she seated herself on her habitual sofa.  In front of it, there was a square wooden table for dining.  I began to talk to her right away.


QFI hear you were injured in May.  Have you gotten well now?


AFIn May, while I was seating myself on this sofa, I tried to get some dish on the table and fell down to be injured in my leg. I felt a pain for a few months.  I have cured the injury with a folk herb.  I eat rice gruel three times every day at present.  I feel choking some times.


QFHave you still been writing Nushu —‘?


AFWhen I feel like writing it, I do so, but not so often because itfs not useful and meaningless to write Nushu.  Recently. Puwei Village•á”ö has become popular and we have few visitors here due to our bad road in addition. They are getting popular.


    She knew well that a culture village had been built in Puwei Village•á”ö, they were prosperous and her village had become unpopular.  I asked her why she knew about the culture village.  She answered that because she had received an invitation letter, and she said she did not go there.  I asked her to show me it. She presented the letter with a leaflet saying h’v—‘Žû‘ Cˆ¤DŽÒ“Iˆê••Mh (to Nushu collectors and enthusiastic Nushu fans). It looked like asking them for Nushu materials.


QFWhat does this letter mean?


AFThey ask me in the letter for presenting Nushu materials I have at hand till November 5, but I did not agreed.  Later, four people of the district office called on me to ask for lending them the materials. I lent them seven kinds of the Nushu materials.  I also lent them what I had written a few months before in response to my granddaughterfs request. 


QFWhat are you doing every day?


AFNothing special.  An Australian visited me last Sunday.  He said he was planning to make a film.  Wu Prefectural GovernorŒÞŒ§’·(1) also called on me and gave me 500 or 600 yuan.


QF(To her sonfs wife).  Do you receive any certain amount of allowance for caring for her from the district government?


AFWe receive 60 yuan every three months for helping her living expenses. We receive 180 yuan three times a year.  Since this November, the amount has increased to 100 yuan from 60 yuan.


   I asked Ms.Yang Huanyi—zà…‹X to sing a song.  After a while, he began to sing.  She sang a song in her usual beautiful voice.  It was a rather long song, but she was not puffy.

   I asked her what it was about, and she said it was a song telling that a daughter of 18 was married to a boy of three: hWhen night came, I washed his feet and let him go to sleep; he asked me for milk in the night.  I told him that I was your wife, not your mother.h   @


QF When you were young, was there such a thing?


AFNo, there wasnft.  It was before the Liberation.  When I was young, I often sang the song. There were various songs. I remembered them, enjoying singing.  Among them, this song was my most favorite one.  Before getting married, I often sang such songs together with my sworn sister.  But after being married, I couldnft sing any longer.  I sang the songs so often in my home town Yangjia Village—k‰Æ‘ºbefore marriage.    


   I asked her about Niang Niang Miao–ºX•_(2)(temple), which I visited together with Gong Zhebing‹{“N•º on the day before.


QF Have you visited Niang Niang Miao–ºX•_ at Long Yan Tang—´Šá“„H


AF Yes, I went there every year.  Itfs about 17.8 li—¢ (3) away from here. I went there together with Ms. Gao Ynxian ‚‹âåand another ten people or so on Chuyi‰ˆê (4), when the temple is opened to the public for its fete.  There were some stalls near the temple selling vegetables and fruits.  In the temple, the visitors who have no child pray for having a child and those who are not rich pray for becoming rich. 

    There were so many worshippers there.  There was a box containing a lot of paper written in Nushu. When I bought incense sticks and paper money (5), the temple keeper gave me a piece of paper written in Nushu.  As a song was written in Nushu on the paper, I could understand it.  I brought it to my home and practice writing Nushu after the model on that paper.  After writing something about me and my wish in Nushu on the paper, I brought it back to the temple next year. For a year I practiced writing in Nushu and returned the paper with the best written characters to the temple next year.  When I received a folding fan instead of paper, I returned it to the temple.  We repeated like that every year.


    Although she followed such a practice 70 or 80 years ago, she remembered and told it to me fluently.  Before she got tired too much, I asked her to write something in Nushu for me. She wrote three lines of a counting-out rhyme in part and then her name. I also asked her to write how she felt at present, and she wrote a sentence in Nushu meaning that gProfessor Endo is sympathetic with me, regarding me with her warm heart.h  I found the style of her written Nushu a little disordered, but her hand did not tremble while writing, and her writing ability had not been changed.  She had a good memory as ever, and I was impressed with her ability to grasp the state of affairs, so I felt easy about her.



@@‡AMs.He Yanxin‰½‰V(born in 1940), whom I interviewed on November 20 and 22.  She talked as followsF


gI have not written Nushu these days.  I have no time to write Nushu at all because I have to take care of my four grandchildren whose parents have gone to @work in GuangzhouLB, and I have to do farm work in addition.  As a result, I @begin to be forgetful of writing Nushu.h


@As I know that she always writes Nushu steadily and carefully, I asked her by @letter to write something in Nushu before I called on her.  In response, she wrote two short folktales for me which had been handed down from generation to generation in the region: one consists of 12 lines with 84 characters and the other 14 lines with 98 characters.  In addition, she wrote an anti-Japanese song consisting of 28 lines with 196 characters and San Chao ShuŽO’©‘(third day missives) consisting of 74 lines with 516 characters.  I found some rewritten traces in writing of even a short song, showing that she seemed to have begun to go down in her writing. 

   She was introduced at the symposium and talked about her as follows:


gI learned Nushu from my grandmother until 13 years old.  I began to forget it a little.  I tried to @write Nushu in various ways, but I am not sure.  When I was a young girl, I wrote seven San Chao ShuŽO’©‘, which I buried together with my grandmother when she died.  When she taught me writing the script, she wrote it on the palm of my hand.  We read ŽO’©‘together.  As she sang a song with tears in her eyes, I asked her why.  She said that the early part of the song was for celebration, but the latter part was a sorrowful one. At the time of He San Chao‰êŽO’©(6), the bridefs parents bring various things to her bridegroomfs house.  His relatives come to see them. A song is presented to her at that time, wishing that she will live peacefully in her husbandfs home, but grieving about the separation from her daughter.  As the song was like that, my grandmother may have wept while singing.h


@‡B Ms. He Chinghua‰½Ã‰Ø(born in 1940), whom I interviewed on November 20 and 22.  She talked as followsF


    gI teach my 9-year-old granddaughter how to write Nushu.  During the summer holidays, some girls of 9 to 19 years old came to my home to learn Nushu.  I taught them from 8 to 10 ofclock on Saturday nights. I continued teaching for about one month and a half. 

     At my house, I wrote one line of Nushu on the blackboard of one- meter length, and let the girls copy it.  At first, I taught them to write place names like Hunan ProvinceŒÎ“ìÈ, Jiang Yong Prefecture]‰iŒ§ and so on.  Then, I taught them how to write a song which is sung when visiting Hua Shan Miao‰ÔŽR•_(temple) and some old songs.  Young girls are also fond of old songs.  The songs written in Nushu are sung in the native language, but some girls do not know it.  My granddaughter does not know it, either.

After the summer holidays, as my husband said to me that it would disturb girlsf school work for me to continue to teach them Nushu, I stopped teaching.  But 18 or 19-year-old girls come to my house to learn Nushu when they are at leisure.  Those who have studied for a long time can read and write the script now.h

 At the symposium, she talked as followsF


@gI appreciate the fact that some ethnologists have taken interest in Nushu.  It is womenfs original script to express their sorrow in songs.  It is sung in the native language of Jiang Yong Prefecture]‰iŒ§.  There are various kinds of songs, such as those sung by a girl when being married, expressing her sorrowful mind of hesitating to be married, asking her mother not to let her get married, asking her go-between to have her wish fulfilled, and so on.  I will continue to do my best for transmission of Nushu together with He Yanxin‰½‰V.  In that respect, it is a good thing that the Nushu dictionary (7) was published.h


     Ms. He Chinghua‰½Ã‰Ø can write Nushu characters fluently and quickly.  But looking at the songs she made, they look like those written in modern Chinese characters.  She learned to write the script by its textbook, which is not its original way of learning.  The styles of the characters she wrote were pretty decorated.  As she lives comfortably, she has enough time to spare for usually writing compositions in Nushu as a hobby.   These days, she positively speaks at official places.  On the contrary, Ms. He Yangxin‰½‰V leads a busy life everyday, so she is far from writing any Nushu sentences.  Therefore, she begins to forget the script.  For the preservation of the script, it should be given priority to support Ms. He Yangxin‰½‰V for her ability to write the same style of Nushu characters and freely express her thought in songs as ancient women did.  @



‡U  Visit to Nushu Culture Village—‘•¶‰»‘º on November 21


    The Nushu culture village is in Pu Wei Village•á”ö‘º, which is located in the sandbank of a winding river.  For a field study, we used to go there by boat, but we now crossed the suspension bridge. The bridge of about 80 meters long swayed greatly.  Having crossed the bridge, we found the stone monument of Jiangyong Prefecture Nushu Culture Garden]‰iŒ§—‘•¶‰»‰€,which commands a full view of the magnificent building.  It was a great surprise again to find that such a building suddenly burst upon the scene where there used to be only farms.There was an emblem reading g•¶‰»‰€g (culture garden) written in a lateral line above the entrance door of the building.  Entering the building, there was a building ahead called h—‘Šw“°h (Nushu classroom) (Photo No. 536), which had a high ceiling as though thrusting through the second floor.  Furthermore, on both sides of this building, there were two buildings connected by a passage.  On the right side, there was a craftwork shop, and Zhou Shuoyi Nushu Display RoomŽü×Ÿ‹—‘“WŽ¦Žºon its second floor.  The left-side building has a Nushu comprehensive room on the first floor and a workshop for craftworks on the second floor.  The front building has a gate in the center, an office and a toilet on the right side, and a demonstration room on the left.  In the demonstration room, young girls in a deep-red folk costume of Yao tribeꢑ°were showing the reproduction of the ancient wedding ceremony with a girl acting as a bride as a central figure.  At the back of that room, there is a kitchen, where potatoes, a specialty of this district, were fried and rice-dumplings wrapped in bamboo leaves were made. 

     In the workshop on the second floor, Nushu teacher Hu MeiyueŒÓ”üŒŽ was showing how to write Nushu, and a girl of her pupils was showing embroidery.  There was also a girl demonstrating weaving floral sashes.  

     In the comprehensive room on the first floor, there is a glass showcase displaying a sheet of paper describing the life of Gao Yinxian‚‹âåand her works such as three volumes of San Chao ShuŽO’©‘.  A slip indicating gSan Chao ShuŽO’©‘of Ming Era–¾‘㠁h had been attached to one of them.  In the Nushu classroom in the center of the second floor, there was no class on that day.  In the center of the classroom, there were a teacherfs desk and a blackboard with a notice board.  On its right side, the names of the teacher and about 40 pupils had been written.  As those names had been firmly written with paint, I was concerned about what they would do with the board when pupils were changed.  According to the geducation plan for Nushu classh written on the left side of the notice board, it seemed that the class was not fixed and opened sometimes depending on the season.  

@The education plan is as followsF


1.The purpose of education

@‡@Through organizing the women learning the Nushu culture, to have them understand its origin, developing process, historical significance and peculiar artistic value and strengthen their pride in their race.

@‡ATo educate them so as to be able to read Nush works and write its characters to secure successors of Nushu.

@‡BTo publicize the Nushu culture and enhance its valuable artistic character so that we will have them fully display its tourist value.

@‡C  To educate learners for their patriotism and groupism so that they will raise their racial pride.  

2.The teaching schedule

@‡@For adult womenfs group: to form a system to combine intensive lessons with private study by utilizing the nights during the leisure season for farmers.

@‡AFor boys-and-girlsf group: to form a system to give lessons and enforce the compulsory education system by utilizing two holidays of Saturdays and Sundays.

3. The contents of teaching

@‡@Ku Jia GešL‰Å‰Ì (songs of a weeping bride) and San Chao ShuŽO’©‘(third-day missives)

@‡AŽlŽš—Œo (four-letter sutra for women)

@‡B Seasonal songs

@‡CChinese literature translated into Nushu, such as Liang Shan Bog—ÀŽR”‘andZhu Ying Taij‰p‘äh

  ‡DLove songs of Yao tribeꢑ°

  ‡EChildrenfs songs

@‡FSu Ku Ge‘i‹ê‰Ì(songs of women in the feudal society complaining of their pain)


    On the blackboard and the wall on the other side, g—‘Šw“° Ð‰îg (introduction of the Nushu classroom) was written, explaining the details of how the classroom was born.

    There were pupilsf works displayed on the wall.  Songs in small Nushu-like characters were written on a long strip of paper of about 20x60cm.  About ten pieces of such rectangular paper were there.  Four or five pieces of white cloth of about 30cm square with about 20 Nushu characters embroidered were also displayed.


    On the second floor, I interviewed Ms. Hu MeiyueŒÓ”üŒŽ.  (The following includes my interview with her at the dinner on November 22).


QFWhen do you teach?

AFOn Saturdays and Sundays.  I teach Nushu in the morning and afternoon.

QFHow many pupils do you have?

AF20 to 30 pupils.

QFHow old are they?

AFThey are 10 to 50 years old.

QFWhere do they come from?

AF They are all from this village.  There is no one from other villages.

QFAre they charged for school fee?

AFNo, they are not.

QF(To a government official nearby).  How much do you pay the teacher?

AF We pay 300 yuan a month.

QF(To Hu MeiyueŒÓ”üŒŽ) Do you teach your pupils to sing a song and let them write it?

AFYes, I do.  First, I sing a song and write it, then, let them write it.

QFDonft they get tired of learning even an old song?

AFThey all like old songs because they can learn about women in the old days through old songs. 

QFWhen did you begin teaching?

AFI began to teach Nushu at another place in February last year, and came here when this building was completed just recently.

QFAre there any girls continuing to learn all through?

AFItfs not easy for them to continue learning because many of them go to work away from home after they left school.

QFCan you make a song about your feelings?

AFNo, I canft.


    As Hu MeiyueŒÓ”üŒŽis a granddaughter of the famous Gao Yinxiain‚‹âå, she seems to have a sense of mission in teaching Nushu, she is well qualified as the teacher of this class, but falls behind He Yanxin‰½‰Vas a transmitter of Nushu because she is unable to express her own feelings in Nushu songs like women in old times.  She would be limited to teaching the style of the script in the class.


    I found a high school girl student in the square in front of the building, so I asked her about herself.  She said that she had been born in this village and was learning Nushu there.  She commented, gOld songs are interesting.  I can learn things of the past when women of old times were discriminated, as quite different from the present day.  So if possible, I would like to make a special study of Nushu in the future.h  The Nushu class may be serving as an incentive to such young women as her.@@       



‡V The report on the international symposium on Jiangyong Nushu]‰i—‘


1. The first day of the symposium held in the large classroom of the First Middle School on November 20   

     The lecture gAn important discovery about Nushu in the area other than Jiangyong Prefecture]‰iŒ§, Henan ProvinceŒÎ“ìÈ---the research on Nanjin copper coins“ì‹ž“º‰ÝCZhongshan San Chao ShuàŽRŽO’©‘and Dao Xian Niang Niang Miao“¹Œ§–ºX•_h given by Prof. Gong Zhebing‹{“N•º of the Academy of Humanities, Wuhan University•Š¿‘åŠwl•¶Šw‰@

    The first of the three discoveries made this time is the copper coin with Nushu written found in Nanjin “ì‹ž.  The words g“V‰º•w—h (the women in the whole country) and gŽo–…ˆê‰Æh (women are all sisters ) were written in Nushu on the coin.  They are still in Nanjin and have not been judged yet, but they are considered to be valuable.

    The second discovery is a new San Chao ShuŽO’©‘ found at ZhongshanàŽRin Guangxi ProvinceL¼È, which is 45x28mm larger than the one found in Jiangyong Prefecture]‰iŒ§.  It has six pictures drawn on it.  This San Chao ShuŽO’©‘ is considered to be transmitted from Jiangyong Prefecture]‰iŒ§ considerably a long time before. 

    The third discovery is Niang Niang Miao–ºX•_ at Long Yan Tang —´Šá“„.  Some characters like Nushu were found on the tombstone in the temple, which was found to be the central place for women for their activities like Hua Shan Miao‰ÔŽR•_.  Some unclear characters were found there.  Also in and around Hubei ProvinceŒÎ–kÈand Guizhou Province‹MBÈ, still unclear characters had been found.  On the tombstone, some numerals were written in an oblique way.  The origin of characters forming Nush may be found among these characters and numerals.

     Nushu found there borrowed its characters from Hanzi Š¿Žš (Chinese ones), not inscriptions on bones and tortoise carapaces nor old ones.  It also borrowed the block style of modern Chinese characters and a lot of simplified Chinese characters.  Judging from the works, the story told was created in the era of the Ching dinasty ´‘ã.  A tale of Jiu jin niang ‹ã‹Ò–º (a girl baby weighing 4,500g)@is written in Nushu, and the calling such a big baby Jiu jin‹ã‹Ò(4,500g) may have been made from the ´ Ching era on and judging from the appearance of the characters, it may have been practiced since the eras of Ming –¾@and Ching ´ .  According to the research conducted by the Jiang Yong Prefecture Bulletin ]‰iŒ§Ž, the only description in the Ching era mentioning ga folding fan was dedicated to Huashan temple ‰ÔŽR•_h was found, but there is no such description in the Ming era.  Since transportation and economy were well-developed in Jiang Yong Prefecture ]‰iŒ§@since early times, Nusu should have been written there if Nushu had existed from old times, but there is no evidence.  As for what it was before the Ching era, we cannot say anything definite on the matter unless there is any historical evidence.


    The presentations on the results of researchers' work, questions and answers are as followsF


a. Xie ZhiminŽÓŽu–¯(former professor of ’†“ì–¯‘°‘åŠw, South-Central University For Nationalities)F

    In 1983, looking at the characters Prof. Gong Zhebing ‹{“N•º brought back from his ethnological research, I was excited to consider that they were very valuable.  In that year we organized a research group in my university and started to conduct the research of Nushu.  Since then I have been studying the script together with him over 20 years.

    The result of Gongfs research showed that the characters were created in the era of the Ching dynasty, but the result of mine showed that they were created in the era of  Shang dynasty ¤‘ã.  I think that they existed as systematic characters in that era.  Nushu includes a lot of characters borrowed from inscriptions on bones and tortoise carapaces.  Similar characters are found in either the inscriptions or Jin Wen ‹à•¶ (characters written on a metalware).  They are a sort of totem characters.  The character g“ªh (head) of the inscriptions was formed from the human head, but that of Nushu was derived from a birdfs head, showing that Nushu was influenced by the rice culture.

    At the moment I think that Yao tribe ꢑ° made Nushu borrowing Chinese characters.  It is a dialect of the Chinese language made by borrowing Chinese characters, and it is considered that Nushu characters were made by ꢑ°.  Its ground is that I surveyed seven neighboring districts, but no one other than women of ꢑ° were not found who could write Nushu.


QuestionF(by a staff member of Hubei ŒÎ–k TV station)F

     So many ages passed from Xian Qin dynasty æ` as you mentioned, is there any historical record during those ages?  Is it proper to presume from only the style of the characters?


Xie Zhimin ŽÓŽu–¯ answeredF

     As for the fact that history makes no mention of the Nushu, in the old times women were low in position in the feudal society and men had no interest in women, so that they left no historical record of it.


Question (by Luo Wanyi —…›U‹V, student of doctorfs course at London University)F

    Since having read the articles on Endofs homepage, I have taken interest in the Nushu.  What do you think of preserving Nushu?


Endo (the present writer) answeredF

    Here is Ms. He Yanxin ‰½‰V.  She can write Nushu as women in old days did and make songs.  As she is the nearest person to the tradition, we should preserve and record her writing.


b. Liu Shouhua —«Žç‰Ø(professor of Huazhong Shifan Daxue ‰Ø’†Žt”Í‘åŠw, central China teachersf university)F@

  There are many tales about strong women transmitted in Nushu.  Women overshadowed men.  Many tales in Nushu are generally romantic, but they had not created them.  Through such tales, they expressed their feelings and also their imagination entered there.

     Lyrics in the Ming@–¾ or Ching@´ era are predominant.  There are many tales originally written in Chinese characters in the Ming era@–¾‘ã like gWngshi nu ‰¤Ž—h (a daughter of Mr. Wang).  I donft agree to the view that Nushu was born in the Ching era ´‘ã.  I think that it came into existence in the Ming era –¾‘ãor a previous one because they began to be able to write long stories in the Ming era.

    I also cannot agree to Prof. Xie Zhimin ŽÓŽu–¯f s view that Nushu was derived from inscriptions on bones and tortoise carapaces.  We should study it universally and scientifically.     


2. The second day of the symposium held in the conference room of gꢉƔѓXh (Yao Jia Hotel) on November 22. 

The presentations, questions and answers are as follows:


a.Pan Shen àNT(Former professor of Taiyuan Shifan Xueyan‘¾Œ´Žt”ÍŠw‰@, Taiyuan teachersf academy)F

     When I worked at the editorial department of the technical magazine gZhongguo Yu Wen ’†‘Œê•¶h(Chinese language and literature) in the 1950s, I learned of the existence of this script found in the manuscript sent from Li Zhengquang —›³Œõ.  I was greatly surprised at the characters.   But it was kept indoors due to the anti-right-wing struggle prevailing at that time.  As I myself had to be working in the country, I was unable to do anything until the end of the 1970s.  This script was born in the maternal society, and I consider that it is older than Jiagu Wenzibœ•¶Žš(inscriptions on bones and tortoise carapaces).



     You said Nushu was born in the maternal society, and if so, could you show an example?  Which expert says that there were characters in the maternal society?


Pan Shen àNT answeredF

     I donft trust expertfs opinions.  Anyone can be an expert.  As Tomba characters may be so, why donft you check up on it?


Question (by Tu Huiping ŒbäÊ)F

    As long as the problem is not a TV entertainment program, your opinion based on mere supposition is not acceptable.  Scientific justification is necessary.  

    Even looking at the patterns on chinaware, it is difficult to recognize their origin, but in the case of Nushu, it is easy to find that the characters were borrowed from Chinese ones.  Therefore, it may be unnecessary to consider that they are that old.  gThe older, the betterh is not always appropriate.  What Nushu means is important at the present day. 


b.Gong Zhebing ‹{“N•ºF

     There was a conflict between Confucianism culture and non-Confucianism in the southwest district, where various cultures were born by womenfs defiance of traditions.  They were not afraid of divorce and resisted the especially severe marriage style and relations between men and women in the southwest region.   New culture was born because of womenfs resistance, not because of a maternal society.  From the sprit of defiance, women did what men could not do.  The Dongba Wenzi “Œ”b•¶Žš iTomba charactersj are not those of a maternal society (referring to Pan Shenfs  observation).

    We should consider about Nushu in relation to the feminism movement in the West.


Pan Shen ”ːT commentedF

    You mentioned relating Nushu to feminism, but it is not of the character of Taiping Tianguo ‘¾•½“V‘, as Prof. Endo said.  Wouldnft it be premature to conclude that the result of the conflict between Confucianism and north-south culture by relating Nushu to the culture other than that of Jiangyong Prefecture ]‰iŒ§.  It is not only a phenomenon of Confucianism, but also a world-wide one for a man to take a wife and for a woman to get married to a man. 


Question (by a student of Qinghua University ´‰Ø‘åŠw)F

     Regarding tourist development, will it lead to the protection of Nushu transmitters?  The displays and demonstrations in the culture village are different from the original forms.  Can we say this is real protection of Nushu culture?  I would like to hear the expertfs opinion here at this conference.


Gong Zhebing ‹{“N•ºcommentedF

    We will continue to protect the transmitters, but we need a new creation. It is better to take two lines of development and preservation.


c. Deng Yongzhong û¹‰i’‰ (Former professor of Taiwan Shifan Daxue ‘ä˜pŽt”Í‘åŠw, Taiwan teachersf university, now living in the U.S.)F

    As my specialty is cultural history, I donft know Nushu at all.  However, characters are storehouses of cultures.  A symbol has two functions of Suoji Š‹L (singnifié or signified) and@Nengji ”\‹L( signifiant or signifier).  I have been studying Taiping Tianguo ‘¾•½“V‘ for about 20 years.  Scholars in ‘¾•½“V‘@did not know the copper coin.  They maybe ignored it.  I wonder that the use of the characters and words carved on the copper coin have particular meanings.  Among the materials of 1953, there are books of the third year of Tianchao “V’© which include two volumes of a collection of poems with five Chinese characters and seven ones.  How are they related to Nushu songs?  Whose idea was it that women were enlisted?  As scholars in ‘¾•½“V‘@attached no importance to these aspects, it would be useful to further study relations between the nation and women, where they actually passed through and so on.


Endo ‰““¡(the present writer) commentedF

    In August, 2001, I took part in the commemorative symposium for the 150th anniversary of the foundation of ‘¾•½“V‘ held in Guangzhou Huadushi LB‰Ô“sŽs.  At the symposium, a researcher of ‘¾•½“V‘ spoke that so far its politics and military affairs had been mainly studied, but the study of womenfs role in their daily life and cultural aspects lagged behind


d. Zhou Shuoyi Žü×Ÿ‹iexpert of Jiangyong Prefecture Culture Hall ]‰iŒ§•¶‰»ŠÙjF

    I came in touch with Nushu in the 1950s, and then quit my job as a schoolteacher to work for Jiangyong Prefecture ]‰iŒ§ culture hall, where I was engaged in collecting Nushu-related materials.  After that, I could not continue to study until 1979 due to the Cultural Revolution, but after the restoration, I was requested to write for Wen Wu Zhi •¶•¨Ž@icultural journal issued by ]‰iŒ§j

    As Sanchao Shu ŽO’©‘ is written in dialect, it is necessary to learn the dialect because any researcherfs mistake would be caused by little knowledge of the district.  There are many errors in ŽO’©‘, so that we should not study the characters by it.  Many people practice calligraphy, and I would like to ask them to preserve the old calligraphy.  Otherwise, Nushu would be no more Nushu


e.      Orie Endo ‰““¡DŽ}(Professor of Bunkyo University, Japan •¶‹³‘åŠw)F

 @ On some problems of the history of Nushu

     I would like to express my questions about the article g—‘Å‘Ž‘—¿\‘¾•½“V‘—‘“º‰Ýg (the earliest material on the Nushu copper coin of Taiping Tianguo ‘¾•½“V‘)@that Professor Zhao Liming æâ—í–¾ of Qinghua Univesity ´‰Ø‘åŠw wrote for the hRenmin Ribao Haiwai Ban l–¯“ú•ñŠCŠO”Łg@(Peoplefs Daily News international edition) dated March 2, 2000.  In the article, she says that the copper coins is a legal copper coin minted by Taiping Tianquo ‘¾•½“V‘ government, on which Nushu characters were curved, and that this means that Nushu was officially used, so that the coin is the earliest material for Nushu ever found.  Is it true that it is an official copper coin really minted by the ‘¾•½“V‘ government?  I am doubtful of it judging from the following points:


@‡@The type of the characters carved on the copper coin is a square style on its head, but Lishu —ꏑ (the scribesf style of writing Chinese characters) on its tail.  However, such a difference of style between head and tail is unprecedented for the g‘¾•½“V‘‰Ý•¼.h (currency of Taiping Tianguo)

@‡AThe arrangement of the Chinese characters carved on the copper coins is not in common with the case of those minted by the ‘¾•½“V‘.

@‡BThere are characters g‰Ššãg carved on the coin, but such a precedent has not been found.  In addition, it is not recognized as necessary that ‘¾•½“V‘ government had such characters carved on its copper coin.

@‡COn the head of the coin, such words as g“V‰º•w—h and gŽo–…ˆê‰Æh in Nushu are carved, but there is no inevitability for the government to carve such characters on its copper coin. 

@‡DIn the general principles or decree of ‘¾•½“V‘, such words are not found.  Some members of its government advocated womenfs liberation, but the basic idea of Hong Xiuquan ^G‘Swas predominance of men over women.  Therefore, it is unthinkable that the government carved such an expression as g“V‰º•w—h on its legal currency to advocate it.

@‡EI had the copper coin appraised by Mr. Zhang Tiebao ’£“S›of Nanjing Taiping Tianguo Musium“ì‹ž‘¾•½“V‘”Ž•¨ŠÙ, and he affirmed that it was not what the government had been concerned in, judging from the rough process of making its central hole (on March 31, 2001).  

@@@@For these reasons, I consider that the copper coin was not what ‘¾•½“V‘­•{ had issued.


f.Zou Jianjun 羌šŒR@(Chief of Nushu research center of Zhongnan Minzu Daxue’†“ì–¯‘°‘åŠw, South-Central University for Nationalities )F

@There are two kinds of value,‡@Nushu is valuable because it is the only womenfs characters existing and being used at present in the world and the system of characters, not individual characters.  There were characters for womenfs exclusive use both in Korea or Japan in old times, but Nushu is the only existing characters for women.

@‡AThere are many cultural theories on Nushu works.  It is worth studying through various academic societies, womenfs study, literature, character study, ethnology, private literature and so on.  It is important to do research, collecting related materials.

   Because there are these two kinds of value, there is value for development.  The value of Nushu is high in the history of civilization.


g.Wang Lihua ‰¤—˜‰Ø@(Professor of Zhongnan Minzu Daxue ’†“ì–¯‘°‘åŠw, South-Central University of Nationalities )F

     She introduced an electronic pronouncing dictionary of Nushu. You can look up a character and its pronunciation in the dictionary.  It has the pronunciation by a native of the village where Gao Yinxian ‚‹âå was born.  As you can look up a word in the dictionary by a Chinese character, you can find a Nushu character you want to write.  


h. Chen Zhonggeng ’Â’‡M (professor of Chinese language faculty of Lingling Academy —ë—ËŠw‰@)F

  @We want to set up an institute of Nushu positioning our academy as a relay point.  We have other institute for other fields of study in the academy, but its management side has yet laid no weight on Nushu.

    Yao tribeꢑ° has a song called Pan Wang Dage ”Õ‰¤‘å‰Ì, but it expresses quite different feelings from Nush songs.  The ”Õ‰¤‘å‰Ì@was a song sung by a shaman in return when his people had their wish fulfilled.  When they must be solemn, he sings merry and joyful songs.  In the case of Nushu, they sing sorrowful songs at the happy occasion of a wedding.  Donft these psychological phenomena become a subject of study? 


Question (by Tu Huiping ŒbäÊ)F

    Yesterday I talked to Prof. Endo and Yang Huanyi —zà…‹X to hear about the present situation of government protection for Nushu.  I think that their support is too little. 


i.Yang Yenli —km—¢@iformer chief of Minzu Weiyuanhui –¯‘°ˆÏˆõ‰ï, committee of nationalities jF

    The district government has been taking a series of actions to protect Nushu.  They give her money, but there is a problem of her family.  I wonder if her son or daughter-in-law really uses the subsidy for her.  Taking the mass media to her for publicity, his son gets money to pay for her monthly living and medical expenses.  But it is feared that her relatives may take advantage of her to make money.  


Luo Wanyi —…›U‹V@commentedF

    Here are Ms. He Chinghua ‰½Ã‰Ø and Ms. He Yanxin ‰½‰V, Nushu transmitters, but they have not been formally introduced yet.  This is a clear evidence of not respecting them.


j.Wang Ping ŸŠ•½@(professor of Suzhou University ‘hB‘åŠw)F

    As Huang Xuezheng ‰©á’åof@ŽÐ‰ï‰ÈŠw‰@Œ¾ŒêŒ¤‹†Š (language institute of academy of social sciences) studies folktales, so we should study the relationship between folktales and Nushu.  As for whether Nushu is based on the Yao tribefs ꢑ° characters or not, we should study its relation to the language of ꢑ°, who speak Hanhua Š¿Œê@(Chinese).  To search the origin of Nushu, it is necessary to study the local language because it has many homophones and to grasp their standard.  I hear that the Nushu song can be sung in Pu Tong Hua •’ÊŒê (standard Chinese), and how about its rhythm?  We should study it from various aspects.

    So far individuals have been studying Nushu based on their interest in it, but from now on, the government should coordinate the related researchers regarding how to make new discoveries of Nushu materials.  A field study is necessary to excavate new materials.  It is necessary to take administrative measures, asking for the power of the government and the mass media.  Moreover, we need to network each village.


k.Li Qingfu—›Œc•Ÿ (expert of ’†“ì–¯‘°‘åŠw—‘•¶‰»Œ¤‹†Šw‰@, Nushu culture research academy of South-Central University For Nationalities)F

    As I have made a list of indices of research materials, I will give out its copies here.  I hope it will be helpful to you. 


l.Ouyang Hongyan ‰¢—zg‰@istaff member of Jiangyong Xian Jiwu Wei ]‰iŒ§Œv•¨ˆÏ, accounting committee of the Jiangyong prefectural governmentjF

    We opened a Nushu hall at the seat of the Jiangyong prefecture office. The development of tourism is useful to that of Nushu culture, which will lead to the growth of local economy, the development of

cultural activities and products of Jiangyong Prefecture ]‰iŒ§D @@

    We plan to set up sales agents for industrial products with Nushu characters in various places.  We are now engaged in developing bags and sashes at the Nushu hall.


Zhang Aiguo’£ˆ¤‘ (Jiangyong Xian Shuji ]‰iŒ§‘‹L, secretary of Jiangyong Prefecture ) commentedF

    We want to collect Nushu-related materials.  We will welcome any information on them.  We are considering protection of the transmitters and training researchers of Nushu.


Liu Shouhua —«Žç‰Ø@commentedF

    It is necessary to study Nush as a folk literature.  Overall surveys are needed.  It is necessary to protect the original text in order to apply Nushu for a world cultural heritage, so that protection shuld be prior to development.  We need to preserve the original like the relics of Dunhuang “ÖàŠ and hand it down.  We also need to set up an expert committee to have the materials appraised whether they are worth transmitting or not.  


Orie Endo ‰““¡DŽ} summarized the discussionsF

     Prior to summing up, I would like to make some additional comments to complement what I said before.

     Regarding the problem of the copper coin of Taiping Tianguo‘¾•½“V‘, we should ascertain the truth in collaboration with experts in the field.  That is what I wanted to say.

     As for the history of the characters, we need to work in close cooperation with researchers of ancient writings.  Such experts of writings as Chen Qiguang ’‘´Œõ and Shi Jinbo Žj‹à”g say that the Nushu may have been derived from Chinese characters.  Concerning whether it is based on the Yao ê¢ characters or not, we need to collaborate with experts of ê¢ language.  Professor Mao Zongwu –я@• of Zhongyang Minzu Daxue ’†‰›–¯‘°‘åŠw(central university for nationalities) says that there is no relation between Yao ê¢ language and Nushu at all.

    As for a world cultural heritage, I went to Funulian •w——ü (womenfs federation) in 1996 to suggest that they apply Nushu for the world cultural heritage as a way of its preservation, but they never accepted the idea as nonsense.  It is a good thing that the matter becomes a topic for discussion now.  Before coming here today, I heard from an expert of NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation) that unless the object applied for a world cultural heritage is genuine, it is not approved.

    For information on preservation, I have visited the Tomba cultural institute at Lijiang, Yunnan Province ‰_“ìÈ—í].  It is located in the beautiful park, where old Tomba people live comfortably with their living guaranteed, writing characters and drawing pictures.  Researchers there pigeonholed massive materials to compile them into as many as 100 volumes. 

    I do hope that the government of Jiangyong Prefecture ]‰iŒ§ will carry out a policy to promote the study of Nushu and protect its transmitters besides a facility intended for the public like a culture village.  At the moment, development and preservation are being advocated, but both of them could not be promoted with the same power, so that either of the two should have priority.  At this time, I would like to request that preservation be prior to development. 


Xie Zhimin ŽÓŽu–¯@gave a closing addressF

    During these three days in the symposium, we had a variety of opinions and comments, and many of them were agreed on.  Concerning the roots of Nushu and the copper coin of Taiping Tianguo ‘¾•½“V‘, no agreement was reached.  The agreed points were that Nushu is valuable and it is necessary to preserve it.  The district government has done their best.  We need to organize a nationwide society for the study of Nushu.  It is of urgent necessity for us to preserve, transmit and protect Nushu works. 

    Moreover, it would be one of our new approaches for promoting its study to use modern technologies, such as electronic dictionaries.





1.          Mr. Wu Jun ŒÞŒR, Governor of Jiangyong Prefecture ]‰iŒ§

2.          A temple where virtuous women were enshrined in the old times

3.          1 li —¢ equals to 500m.

4.          The first day of the first lunar month

5.          A paper charm to be burnt when burying a dead person

6.          Celebration on the third day of wedding

gNushu Zidian —‘Žš“Th, the Nushu dictionary, (published by Yuelu Shushe Šx˜[‘ŽÐ), which was issued just in time for the symposium, and its copies were given out to its participants on November 22.