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Indiana University

Outreach

Video Lending Library

China

Program Title: Nu Shu: A Hidden Language of Chinese Women
EASC Code: CN-06
Series Title:
Region/Country: China
Language: Other Chinese Dialects
Subtitles: English
Subject: Language
Program Type: Documentary
Media Type: VHS
Director:
Producer: Women Make Movies
Release Date: 1999
Running Time: 59 min.
Color or BW: Color
Program Abstract: In feudal China, women, usually with bound feet, were denied educational opportunities and condemned to social isolation. But in Jian-yong county in Hunan province, peasant women miraculously developed a separate written language, called Nu Shu, meaning "female writing." Believing women to be inferior, men disregarded this new script, and it remained unknown for centuries. It wasn't until the 1960s that Nu Shu caught the attention of Chinese authorities, who suspected that this peculiar writing was a secret code for international espionage. Today, interest in this secret script continues to grow, as evidenced by the wide critical acclaim of Lisa See’s recent novel, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, about Nu Shu. This is a thoroughly engrossing documentary that revolves around the filmmaker's discovery of eighty-six-year-old Huan-yi Yang, the only living resident of the Nu Shu area still able to read and write Nu Shu. Exploring Nu Shu customs and their role in women's lives, the film uncovers a women's subculture born of resistance to male dominance, finds a parallel struggle in the resistance of Yao minorities to Confucian Han Chinese culture, and traces Nu Shu's origins to some distinctly Yao customs that fostered women's creativity.
Data Entry Date: 5/25/2004