Last speaker of women's language has died

Here’s an interesting article I found. There was actually a language in China written & spoken only by women.

Yang Huanyi, the last surviving writer and speaker of an enigmatic language invented and used only by women in a small pocket of central China, has died. She was believed to be in her late 90s.

Mrs. Yang died Sept. 20 at her home in Jiangyong, a bucolic county in Hunan province, the official New China News Agency reported.

For years, Mrs. Yang was the lone survivor of a generation of women in Jiangyong whose mothers and grandmothers had passed down the art of nushu, a secret script they developed to share their joys and sorrows, hopes and fears, away from the prying eyes of men.

Confined to home, the women of Jiangyong traded gossip, spread news, and lamented their lot in letters, poems, and songs that they collected in books, embroidered into handkerchiefs, or painted on fans. At a time in China when most women and girls were illiterate and considered the property of husbands and fathers, these women turned objects of domestic life into avenues of escape and found solace among “sworn sisters” with whom they communicated in their own language.

“When I learned nushu, it was to meet with friends and sisters to exchange our thoughts and letters,” Mrs. Yang told the Los Angeles Times in an interview two years ago. “We wrote what was in our hearts, our feelings.”

The existence of nushu remained largely unnoticed until 20 years ago, when local scholars began to take interest in preserving it and the texts written by women in decades past. The language’s origins are mysterious: Various legends say that it had antecedents in a tribal tongue more than 2,000 years old or that it was created by a clever girl from Jiangyong who was forced to become an imperial concubine and wanted to find a way to write home in code.

Whatever its origin, scholars say nushu dates at least to the mid-19th century, because a coin was discovered from that era bearing nushu characters.

Nushu, which means “women’s script” in Chinese, was mostly a written language and consisted of up to 2,000 characters. By contrast, Mandarin Chinese boasts at least 50,000 characters. Nushu characters are curvy, wispy, and relatively simple, more akin to the ancient scratchings on Chinese oracle bones than to their complicated modern, boxy Chinese counterparts.

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