Sustaining Women’s Culture and Preserving a “Secret” Script: The Case of Nüshu

By Ann-Gee Lee.

Published by The International Journal of Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context

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Article: Electronic $US5.00

Nüshu is a script used by uneducated rural women in Jiangyong County, Hunan Province, in China. It is believed to have proliferated since the end of the Ming Dynasty and flourished through the Qing Dynasty to the Cultural Revolution. In the past, women in this particular region used this “secret script” to communicate and correspond with one another, promote creative expression, and cope with their hardships in times unkind to women. While it could certainly be considered “endangered” today, with the help of people in the Jiangyong community and worldwide, they will be able to preserve their own cultural heritage. In this paper, I explain the background of Nüshu, describe the information gained from research and interviews conducted in China, and discuss various attempts that have been made to sustain this interesting aspect of Chinese women’s culture. Hopefully, by informing audiences worldwide, we can keep the traditions of this fascinating women’s literate practice alive.

Keywords: Endangered Language, Women's Culture, Preservation, History, Script

The International Journal of Social Sustainability in Economic, Social and Cultural Context, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp.89-97. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 624.546KB).

Dr. Ann-Gee Lee

Assistant Professor, English, Rhetoric and Writing, College of Languages and Communication, University of Arkansas Fort Smith, Fort Smith, Arkansas, USA

Lee is an Assistant Professor of English at University of Arkansas-Fort Smith. She teaches first-year writing and upper-division rhetoric courses; before that, she taught writing courses at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Lee graduated with a BA in English with a TESOL concentration and Spanish Minor and MA in English with Rhetoric & Writing & TESOL concentration from California State University, Stanislaus. She obtained her Ph.D. in Rhetoric & Writing at Bowling Green State University. Lee’s research interests include but are not limited to the following: women’s studies, cultural studies, popular culture, media studies, material and body rhetoric, writing center theory and practice, composition theory and pedagogy, and second/language acquisition theory and pedagogy.