Women's Scripts


Three stories, or perhaps three versions of the same story:

  1. In 1446, Sejong the Great, the fourth king of the Joseon dynasty, published the Hunminjeongeum, which introduced a new phonetic writing system for the Korean language. At the time, educated Koreans mainly wrote using Chinese characters, and attaining literacy was an expensive proposition that was out of reach for the common person. Despite the resistance of the scholarly classes, this new writing system soon flourished, especially among women and writers of mainstream fiction. And this script, which we now call hangul ("great script" or "Korean script"), has been so successful that the Korean people use it to this day.

  2. Around 800 CE, a new form of phonetic writing became popular among the women of the Japanese court. Like their Korean counterparts, the educated classes in Japanese society mainly wrote using Chinese characters, with the same dynamics for common literacy. This new script soon found a niche in women's popular fiction, most notably through works like Murasaki Shikibu's The Tale of Genji. The script, called hiragana (roughly, "simple writing"), is now a standard part of the Japanese writing system and is used extensively by writers of all ages and genders.

  3. Although its origin is unknown, a new phonetic script flourished throughout the medieval era in Jiangyong County, part of the Hunan province in southern China. Used mainly by women, this script fell out of use as literacy in the standard Chinese characters became more common. The last proficient reader of this system, called nĂ¼shu ("women's script"), died in 2004.