Thursday, December 30, 2010

Through the Pages (2) - Snow Flower & the Secret Fan

"Through the Pages" Thursday is something I hope to do on a weekly basis.  Its purpose is to go beyond reading a book just to check it off a list & build up your number of reads. There is so much to learn from books - background behind its creation, history involved within the story itself (whether true history or mythical), the thoughts & impressions a certain passage may leave us with if we take the time to ponder instead of rush through. The subject matter for "Through the Pages" can be expansive if you just stop to think & let your creativity flow.

(Anyone is welcome to join me with their own current read's "Through the Pages" - just leave a comment w/ a link to the specific post on your blog.) 

I am currently reading Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See, a book I've been meaning to read for a few years now. I considered posting about the foot binding traditions, but was so disturbed by it, I didn't think I could stomach looking at the pictures & describing how it's done (shudder). Instead, I decided to look into nu shu, or women's writing.

Women in China were not allowed to attend school or receive an education until the early 20th century. Because of this, many were illiterate. Although no one seems to know the origins of nu shu, it is said that a young girl from Southern China created it after being chosen as the emperor's concubine. It was her way of communicating with her mother & sisters back home. Nu shu is a phonetic written language used to write stories, poetry, & autobiographies. It was also a way to write letters & communicate between "sworn sisters" (or friends) & mothers. Unlike traditional Chinese characters which are boxy, nu shu was slanted, long & frail.

Nu shu was a secret language hidden from men & was often disguised to look like art. It was also embroidered onto everyday items & clothes.

 With the increase in literacy among women in the 20th century, nu shu began to fade away & was no longer needed. It is now considered an endangered language.

Information researched on Wikipedia & Lisa See's webpage.