Anne McLaren

Women’s Chinese Character Script Writing in ChinaAnne McLaren, Asia Institute, University of Melbourne

Chinese women have always had a rich expressive culture. Very few Chinese women managed to acquire literacy in Chinese character script in the pre-contemporary period. However, a special community of women in rural China devised their own system of writing to communicate with each other. They called it “women’s script” (nűshu) to distinguish it from “men’s script” (regular Chinese characters). Women inscribed their poetic writings on fans, handkerchiefs and in cloth booklets. Women’s Script artifacts have a unique aesthetics based on the beauty of the script and the quality of the poetic message the artifacts convey.

The majority of Women’s Script compositions express women’s complaint at the hardships they endured within a strongly patriarchal system.

Anne McLaren, Associate Professor in Chinese language and literature at the University of Melbourne, has long studied the oral expressive culture of Chinese women and has published on stories inscribed in Women’s Script. In this presentation she will display fans inscribed with Women’s Script and discuss the unique attributes of the poetic compositions.