Before the 1960's a group of women in southern Hunan, China, often gathered to do embroidery while listening to one of their members chant from a booklet or a piece of paper, a folktale, an autobiography, or a marriage congratulation text written in an elegantly slanted script. The men could not read the script and belittled it.An attempt to understand the script used by the women, called the Women's Script, and the practice of its literacy is the focus of this book. The study itself includes the author's collection of 142 documents and thirteen months of fieldwork, from interview data to reinterpretations of existing literature. In addition to technical and literary studies of the scripts, the book focuses on both cultural patterns and social factors. Chiang suggests that the women's liteacy relates to a possible cultural complex found in South China, while proposing that gender actually determines the function and nature of the script. Because this book describes a rare situation in which script use is differentiated by gender, it will appeal to those interested in women's studies, China, sociolinguistics and writing systems.
Publisher: University Press of America