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Oct 7, 04 10:11 AM

Nushu: Secret Chinese Code's "Last Speaker" Dies.


Yang Huanyi, Last User of a Secret Code, Dies

"Yang Huanyi, the last woman to communicate secretly with others in a rare script used exclusively by women, died Sept. 20 in her home in Hunan Province, China. She was believed to be in her late 90's.

"...A script specific to one sex is rare among the world's languages, and popular writers have called Nushu 'the witch's script' and the 'first language of women's liberation.'

"...A principal function of the script was for communication among women who called themselves 'sworn sisters.' Writing in verse on handkerchiefs, fans and elsewhere, they often used Nushu's vocabulary of more than 20,000 words to communicate about marriage as a tragic event. Hardbound booklets conveying deep anxieties about marriage were common wedding gifts in the region.

"...Once Ms. Yang mastered Nushu, she, too, wrote for others, but charged only for marriage booklets. She married, but her husband died two years later after he was bitten by a snake. She then married a gambler who ran up big debts. They had eight children before he died."

Posted by Mike on October 7, 2004 10:11 AM