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Throughout history, women in rural Hunan Province used a coded script to express their most intimate thoughts to one another. Today, this once-“dead” language is making a comeback.

China’s south-eastern Hunan province is a dramatic jigsaw puzzle of precipitous sandstone peaks, deeply incised river valleys and fog-shrouded rice paddy fields. Mountains cover more than 80% of the area, leaving many isolated hillside hamlets to develop independently of one another. It was here, hidden amongst the rocky slopes and rural river villages where Nüshu was born: the only writing system in the world created and used exclusively by women.

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Hunan Asia China