Oh my Gosh. This story really fascinates me. I am so glad this woman filmmaker found her way to this story. Another great example that wherever you are, women have voices, hidden or not. The world influences do have far-reaching effects.

The link provided does a deeper dive into “why now” has this been exposed? The “#metoo” movement  was ripe for the Chinese Women’s Movement, especially with the governments “male birth” preferences that ended. That proved to be repressive to the entire population of the most populated country on the planet. With it now comes the snap back to reality where women are taking their places in all aspects of life.

Watch this. You’ll be glad you did. How resilience heals is inspirational.

Telling the Story of Keeping the Secret Nüshu Language Alive | Blog | Hidden Letters Independent Lens (pbs.org)

Inspired by a bestselling book that featured Nüshu, filmmaker Violet Du Feng was surprised at how little she and most Chinese people knew about the secret written language that goes back centuries in China. The Shanghai native and New York resident Feng became obsessed with Nüshu as she began seeing ways its ancient story connected to modern women in China struggling in a patriarchal society. 

The Oscar-shortlisted documentary Hidden Letters examines the only script designed and used exclusively by women that shows how friction has developed in China over the commercialization and control of Nüshu. But ultimately Feng’s documentary—which she co-directed with Qing Zhao—is the story of the bonds of sisterhood. To that end, Hidden Letters spans past and present, as two young women try to continue the tradition while fiercely protecting it.

“Besides a well, one does not thirst. Besides a sister, one does not despair.”

Nüshu poemar

For centuries leading up to the Communist Revolution in 1949, Chinese women following the “Three Obediences”—to obey fathers in childhood, husbands in marriage, and sons in widowhood—succumbed to the oppression of patriarchy. READ THIS AGAIN. Sound familiar?

Foot binding was prevalent, women were often relegated to private domestic settings, away from the public gaze, and unmarried girls spent most of their time doing needlework with peers in the upstairs chamber of a house. 

Yet persistent struggle led to eventual resistance, and when the written language of Nüshu emerged in Jiangyong, a remote village in Central China, one of the most extraordinary and pioneering forms of feminist protest was born. 

Nüshu was created by and for women to commune in privacy. As a secret text, Nüshu was written in calligraphy as poems or songs on paper-folded fans and handkerchiefs. These hidden letters were passed down from generation to generation as a way for women to share their stories, express hope and solidarity, and affirm their dignity in the face of daily struggles. 

In a world where there was almost no female literature, most women [in China] had their own written biographical ballads.

For centuries in China, the once-secret written language of Nüshu was calligraphed on folded fans and handkerchiefs as hidden letters so women could share stories and express solidarity in a repressive era when many women were denied literacy. Confronting patriarchy, two modern women find solace in Nüshu, rediscovering connections between traditional Chinese womanhood and contemporary feminism.


PBS Independent Lens Hidden Letters
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