Nushu is a secret script known only to women and developed over centuries in the highlands of southern China. The language was suppressed by the Japanese in the 1930s, fearing that the Chinese could use the language to send secret messages. During the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards burned huge piles of Nushu texts, along with other regional scripts.

Academics “rediscovered” Nushu in 1983 and have since been able to collate only 2000 characters, a fraction of the total. Only two women remain, both in Jiangyong County, one 92-years-old and the other 93-years-old, who can still write the language.

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