Nushu Everywhere


From Nushu to Putonghua Nushu, and eventually the world of Nushu.


Nushu is a mysterious script that was used exclusively among women in Jiangyong County of southern China.

The script could be categorized as a syllabic script, since every character of it represents either a syllable or a group of syllables that share similar pronunciations. As it was used to record the Jiangyong dialect, a Chinese dialect different from standard Chinese (i.e. Putonghua), every learner, if not being native Jiangyong dialect speaker, needs to learn the dialect, which could be difficult in the beginning.


Putonghua Nushu

Observing this obstacle, an individual Nushu researcher published Putonghua Nushu in April 2019. Based on the traditional Nushu script, it standardized the usage of the characters in terms of the syllables of Putonghua, with the motivation of creating a new kind of Nushu which is easily accessible for all Chinese people.

Putonghua Nushu

Image source: Nushu Culture

Nushu for Gongche notation

It is not the first time that Nushu was used without the engagement of its original dialect. In March 2019, a scheme was posted on the subscription account of Nushu Culture, in which the author designed a new Gongche notation in Nushu style. Combining Nushu and traditional Chinese Music, it is an innovative attempt to enrich the usage of the script.

Nushu for Gongche notation

Japanese Nushu

Inspired by the two attempts, we have found that the usage of Nushu should not be restricted to the Chinese language and Chinese culture. Rather, it should be introduced to the whole world. The first station of our tour is the Japanese language.

In Japanese, there is a complete system of the pronunciation of Chinese characters called on’yomi. Therefore, using the same approach as Putonghua Nushu, we could easily define Japanese Nushu as the following.

Old Japanese Hiragana Man’yōgana Living Example Transcript of Example Alternate Nushu
a 安居院 agu-wi 𛊃
i 移染 i-sen 𛊺
u 有頂天 utiyau-ten 𛈶
e 衣紋家 emon-ke 𛆱
o 意富比垝 opopiko 𛋤
ka 香具山 kagu-yama 𛉶
ki 来手 ki-te 𛇤
ku 九年母 kunen-bo 𛆆
ke 家来 ke-rai 𛉊
ko 己心 ko-sin 𛆺
ga 我他彼此 gata-pisi 𛈪
gi 義認 gi-nin 𛅺
gu 値遇 ti-gu 𛇃
ge 下用櫃 geyou-bitu 𛅽
go 後夜 go-ya 𛇌
sa 沙汰 sa-ta 𛊾
si 思案 si-an 𛊸
su 寸陰 sun-in 𛆄
se 背旗 se-bata 𛋲
so 祖師図 sosi-du 𛊽
za 𛋮
zi 仕丁 zi-tiyau 𛆹
zu 受領 zu-riyau 寿 𛉬
ze 是生滅法 zesiyau-metupopu 𛅵
zo 存命不定 zonmei-pudiyau 𛊶
ta 太郎月 tarau-duki 𛆎
ti 千葉 tiba 𛆉
tu 通障子 tu-siyauzi 𛉭
te 天幕 ten-maku 𛆤
to 等閑 tou-kan 𛉠
na 七座星 nanamasu-posi 𛅲
ni 二弦琴 nigen-kin 𛅱
nu 憤怒 fun-nu 𛈏
ne 年縞 nen-kau 𛆥
no 乃木浜 nogi-pama 𛊊
da 大太鼓 da-daiko 𛅻
di 治部省 dibu-siyau 𛊝
du 頭陀袋 duda-bukuro 𛇊
de 田字草 denzi-sau 𛋊
do 土風炉 do-buro 𛆀
pa 八佾 pati-itu 𛅴
pi 日陰 pi-kage 𛇈
pu 不況 pu-kiyau 𛆳
pe 辺波 pe-nami 𛇙
po 𛆠
ba 婆娑羅絵 basara-we 𛉖
bi 備後絣 bingo-gasuri 𛊰
bu 文房具 bunbau-gu 𛆂
be 別業 betu-gepu 𛊎
bo 𛆌
ma 前相撲 mape-zumapu 𛋋
mi 三日月 mika-duki 𛆊
mu 六連星 mutura-bosi 𛆜
me 女波 me-nami 𛆁
mo 門下 mon-ka 𛇷
ya 夜天光 yaten-kuwau 𛇩
yu 由加物 yuka-mono 𛊢
yo 四方棚 yopau-dana 𛈗
ra 奈良 nara 𛉴
ri 里正 ri-sei 𛉄
ru 留守番 rusu-ban 𛇋
re 連理 ren-ri 𛉹
ro 路考 rokau 𛋗
wa 和綿 wa-men 𛇮
wi 為政 wi-sei 𛊄
wo 回向文 wekau-mon 𛇳
wo 遠志 won-zi 𛋟
n 𛇯

Reference: Wikipedia

Japanese Nushu

Text source: Wikisource

The ultimate solution: BaseNushu

Base64 is a group of binary-to-text encoding schemes that represent binary data in an ASCII string format by translating it into a radix-64 representation. It is designed to carry data stored in binary formats across channels that only reliably support text content.

For our Nushu world, it is expected that information could be represented by nothing else but Nushu. This is why BaseNushu comes in. Inspired by BaseHangul, Base256 and many other prominent projects, BaseNushu encodes every binary data into a radix-256 representation.

BaseNushu Encoder

For example, the English sentence “To be, or not to be, that is the question.”, when encoded in UTF-8, is a binary serial 546f 2062 652c 206f 7220 6e6f 7420 746f 2062 652c 2074 6861 7420 6973 2074 6865 2071 7565 7374 696f 6e2e, and it encodes to “𛇄𛇟𛆐𛇒𛇕𛆜𛆐𛇟𛇢𛆐𛇞𛇟𛇤𛆐𛇤𛇟𛆐𛇒𛇕𛆜𛆐𛇤𛇘𛇑𛇤𛆐𛇙𛇣𛆐𛇤𛇘𛇕𛆐𛇡𛇥𛇕𛇣𛇤𛇙𛇟𛇞𛆞”.

English Nushu

Image source: Stratford Festival


And the above emoji encodes to:


This means that we have not only Putonghua Nushu, Nushu for Gongche notation and Japanese Nushu, but also the whole gamut from English Nushu, Spanish Nushu and Russian Nushu (via UTF-8), to image Nushu, music Nushu and video Nushu.

Everything solved. This is the ultimate solution of Nushu.

(Written on May 5, 2019, fixed typo on May 20, 2019 and May 1, 2020)