George Bernard Shaw’s Famous Writing Hut, Which Could Be Rotated 360 Degrees to Catch the Sun All Day

Seven decades after his death, George Bernard Shaw is remembered for his prodigious body of work as a playwright, but also — and at least as much — for his personal eccentricities: the then-unfashionable teetotaling vegetarianism, the rejection of vaccines and even the germ theory of disease, the all-wool wardrobe. Thus, even those casually familiar with Shaw’s life and work may not be terribly surprised to learn that he not only had an outbuilding in which to do his work, but an outbuilding that could be rotated 360 degrees. “Shaw’s writing refuge was a six-square-meter wooden summerhouse, originally intended for his wife Charlotte,” writes Idler’s Alex Johnson. “Built on a revolving base that used castors on a circular track,” it was “essentially a shed on a lazy Susan.”

The hut became a part of Shaw’s formidable public image in a period of the early twentieth century “when there was a growing appreciation of idyllic rural settings — a knock-on effect of which was that people had garden buildings installed. Shaw made the most of this movement, promoting himself as a reclusive thinker toiling in his rustic shelter, away from the intrusions of press and people alike, while at the same time inviting in newspapers and magazines and posing for photos.”

In 1929, “Shaw stood in front of his hut for a photo for Modern Mechanics & Inventions magazine to promote the idea of sunlight as a healing agent.” Hence the importance of rotating to catch its rays all day long through windows made of Vitaglass, “a recent invention that allowed UV rays to come through, letting, the makers said, ‘health into the building.'”

However odd some of Shaw’s views and practices, one can’t help but imagine that at least some of them contributed to his longevity. The 1946 British Pathé newsreel above pays him a visit just a few years before his death at the age of 94, finding him still writing (he still had the play Buoyant Billions ahead of him, as well as several other miscellaneous works), and what’s more, doing so in his hut: “Like G. B. S. himself,” says the narrator, “it pretends to be strictly practical, with no nonsense about it.” Yet Shaw seems to have had a sense of humor about his theoretically humble workspace, naming it after the English capital so that unwanted visitors to his home in the village of Ayot St Lawrence could be told, not untruthfully, that he was in London. But one naturally wonders: when he rang up the main house with his in-hut telephone (another of its highly advanced features), did his housekeeper say it was London calling?

via Messy Nessy

Related content:

Roald Dahl Gives a Tour of the Small Backyard Hut Where He Wrote All of His Beloved Children’s Books

The Cork-Lined Bedroom & Writing Room of Marcel Proust, the Original Master of Social Distancing

Classic Monty Python: Oscar Wilde and George Bernard Shaw Engage in a Hilarious Battle of Wits

Who Wrote at Standing Desks? Kierkegaard, Dickens and Ernest Hemingway Too

The Daily Habits of Famous Writers: Franz Kafka, Haruki Murakami, Stephen King & More

When the Indiana Bell Building Was Rotated 90° While Everyone Worked Inside in 1930 (by Kurt Vonnegut’s Architect Dad)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

The Three Punctuation Rules of Cormac McCarthy (RIP), and How They All Go Back to James Joyce

Note: Today novelist Cormac McCarthy (All the Pretty Horses, The Road and No Country for Old Men) passed away at the age of 89. Below, we’re revisiting a favorite post from our archive that focuses on punctuation, a distinctive element of McCarthy’s writing.

Cormac McCarthy has been—as one 1965 reviewer of his first novel, The Orchard Tree, dubbed him—a “disciple of William Faulkner.” He makes admirable use of Faulknerian traits in his prose, and I’d always assumed he inherited his punctuation style from Faulkner as well. But in his very rare 2008 televised interview with Oprah Winfrey, McCarthy cites two other antecedents: James Joyce and forgotten novelist MacKinlay Kantor, whose Andersonville won the Pulitzer Prize in 1955. Joyce’s influence dominates, and in discussion of punctuation, McCarthy stresses that his minimalist approach works in the interest of maximum clarity. Speaking of Joyce, he says,

James Joyce is a good model for punctuation. He keeps it to an absolute minimum. There’s no reason to blot the page up with weird little marks. I mean, if you write properly you shouldn’t have to punctuate.

So what “weird little marks” does McCarthy allow, or not, and why? Below is a brief summary of his stated rules for punctuation:

1. Quotation Marks:

McCarthy doesn’t use ’em. In his Oprah interview, he says MacKinlay Kantor was the first writer he read who left them out. McCarthy stresses that this way of writing dialogue requires particular deliberation. Speaking of writers who have imitated him, he says, “You really have to be aware that there are no quotation marks, and write in such a way as to guide people as to who’s speaking.” Otherwise, confusion reigns.

2. Colons and semicolons:

Careful McCarthy reader Oprah says she “saw a colon once” in McCarthy’s prose, but she never encountered a semicolon. McCarthy confirms: “No semicolons.”

Of the colon, he says: “You can use a colon, if you’re getting ready to give a list of something that follows from what you just said. Like, these are the reasons.” This is a specific occasion that does not present itself often. The colon, one might say, genuflects to a very specific logical development, enumeration. McCarthy deems most other punctuation uses needless.

3. All other punctuation:

Aside from his restrictive rationing of the colon, McCarthy declares his stylistic convictions with simplicity: “I believe in periods, in capitals, in the occasional comma, and that’s it.” It’s a discipline he learned first in a college English class, where he worked to simplify 18th century essays for a textbook the professor was editing. Early modern English is notoriously cluttered with confounding punctuation, which did not become standardized until comparatively recently.

McCarthy, enamored of the prose style of the Neoclassical English writers but annoyed by their over-reliance on semicolons, remembers paring down an essay “by Swift or something” and hearing his professor say, “this is very good, this is exactly what’s needed.” Encouraged, he continued to simplify, working, he says to Oprah, “to make it easier, not to make it harder” to decipher his prose. For those who find McCarthy sometimes maddeningly opaque, this statement of intent may not help clarify things much. But lovers of his work may find renewed appreciation for his streamlined syntax.

Related Content: 

Werner Herzog Reads From Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses

Cormac McCarthy Explains Why He Worked Hard at Not Working: How 9-to-5 Jobs Limit Your Creative Potential

Werner Herzog and Cormac McCarthy Talk Science and Culture

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Washington, DC. Follow him at @jdmagness

Behold the Microscopically Tiny Handwriting of Novelist Robert Walser, Which Took Four Decades to Decipher

Robert Walser’s last novel, Der Räuber or The Robber, came out in 1972. Walser himself had died fifteen years earlier, having spent nearly three solid decades in a sanatorium. He’d been a fairly successful figure in the Berlin literary scene of the early twentieth century, but during his long  institutionalization in his homeland of Switzerland — from which he refused to return to normal life, despite his outward appearance of mental health — he claimed to have put letters behind him. As J. M. Coetzee writes in the New York Review of Books, “Walser’s so-called madness, his lonely death, and the posthumously discovered cache of his secret writings were the pillars on which a legend of Walser as a scandalously neglected genius was erected.”

This cache consisted of “some five hundred sheets of paper covered in a microscopic pencil script so difficult to read that his executor at first took them to be a diary in secret code. In fact Walser had kept no diary. Nor is the script a code: it is simply handwriting with so many idiosyncratic abbreviations that, even for editors familiar with it, unambiguous decipherment is not always possible.”

He devised this extreme shorthand as a kind of cure for writer’s block: “In a 1927 letter to a Swiss editor, Walser claimed that his writing was overcome with ‘a swoon, a cramp, a stupor’ that was both ‘physical and mental’ and brought on by the use of a pen,” writes the New Yorker‘s Deirdre Foley Mendelssohn. “Adopting his strange ‘pencil method’ enabled him to ‘play,’ to ‘scribble, fiddle about.'”

“Like an artist with a stick of charcoal between his fingers,” Coetzee writes, “Walser needed to get a steady, rhythmic hand movement going before he could slip into a frame of mind in which reverie, composition, and the flow of the writing tool became much the same thing.” This process facilitated the transfer of Walser’s thoughts straight to the page, with the result that his late works read — and have been belatedly recognized as reading — like no other literature produced in his time. As Brett Baker at Painter’s table sees it,” Walser’s compressed prose (rarely more than a page or two) constructs full narratives than can be consumed rapidly – nearly ‘at a glance,’ as it were. Their short length allows the reader to revisit the work in detail, focusing on sentences, phrases, or words as one might examine the painted passages or marks on a canvas.”

These ultra-compressed works from the Bleistiftgebiet, or “pencil zone,” writes Foley Mendelssohn, “establish Walser as a modernist of sorts: the recycling of materials can make the texts look like collages, modernist mashups toeing the line between mechanical and personal production.” But they also make him look like the forerunner of another, later variety of experimental literature: in a longer New Yorker piece on Walser, Benjamin Kunkel proposes 1972 as a culturally appropriate year to publish The Robber, “a fitting date for a beautiful, unsummarizable work every bit as self-reflexive as anything produced by the metafictionists of the sixties and seventies.” The publication of his “microscripts,” in German as well as in translation, has ensured him an influence on writers of the twenty-first century — and not just their choice of font size.

For anyone interested in seeing a published version of Walser’s writing, see the book Microscripts, which features full-color illustrations by artist Maira Kalman.

via Messy Nessy

Related content:

The Code of Charles Dickens’ Shorthand Has Been Cracked by Computer Programmers, Solving a 160-Year-Old Mystery

Font Based on Sigmund Freud’s Handwriting Coming Courtesy of Successful Kickstarter Campaign

Why Did Leonardo da Vinci Write Backwards? A Look Into the Ultimate Renaissance Man’s “Mirror Writing”

Discover Nüshu, a 19th-Century Chinese Writing System That Only Women Knew How to Write

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Martin Amis (RIP) Explains Why American Populism Is a Con

In the later decades of his 50-year-long career as a novelist, the late Martin Amis had a reputation as something of a controversialist. This made more sense in his native England than in the America to which he later relocated, and whose largely non-literary provocateurs tend to an aggressive plainspokenness bordering on — and more recently, driving well into the territory of — vulgarity. “Intellectual snobbery has been much neglected,” says Amis in the Big Think interview clip above. His plea is for “more care about how people express themselves and more reverence, not for people of high social standing, but for people of decent education and training.”

This against populism, which “relies on a sentimental and very old-fashioned view that the uneducated population knows better, in its instincts, than the over-refined elite, that leads to anti-intellectualism, which is self-destructive for everyone”: the lionization, in other words, of the kind of figure given to declarations like “I go with my gut.”

In every other land, as Amis sees it, “brain has won over gut, but in America it still splits the nation.” It would be one thing if the viscera-trusting rabble-rousers actually worked to further the interests of the common man, but in every real-world scenario it turns out to be quite another. “It’s an act, populism. It’s always an act.”

An admirer of American democracy, Amis acknowledged the right to free speech as a vital element of that system. “You’ve got it or you haven’t,” he says in the clip just above, “and every diminution of freedom of speech diminishes everyone, and lessens the currency of freedom of speech.” But he also lays down a caveat: “The controversial statement has to be earned. It can’t just be tossed off. You have to be able to back it up.” He even describes himself as “a fan of political correctness” — of not “the outer fringe P.C., but raising the standards about what can be said.” This process comes with its own challenges, and “you have to sort of work round it a bit.” But since greater restrictions demand, and reward, more skillful subtlety, an adept writer will always be of two minds about free speech. It will surely be a while before we see another writer quite as adept as Martin Amis.

Related content:

Martin Amis Explains His Method for Writing Great Sentences

Umberto Eco Makes a List of the 14 Common Features of Fascism

Martin Amis Explains How to Use a Thesaurus to Actually Improve Your Writing

Norman Mailer & Martin Amis, No Strangers to Controversy, Talk in 1991

P. J. O’Rourke (RIP) Explains Why You Can Never Win Over Your Political Adversaries by Mocking Them

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Stephen King’s 20 Rules for Writers

Image by the USO, via Flickr Commons

In one of my favorite Stephen King interviews, for The Atlantic, he talks at length about the vital importance of a good opening line. “There are all sorts of theories,” he says, “it’s a tricky thing.” “But there’s one thing” he’s sure about: “An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story. It should say: Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.” King’s discussion of opening lines is compelling because of his dual focus as an avid reader and a prodigious writer of fiction—he doesn’t lose sight of either perspective:

We’ve talked so much about the reader, but you can’t forget that the opening line is important to the writer, too. To the person who’s actually boots-on-the-ground. Because it’s not just the reader’s way in, it’s the writer’s way in also, and you’ve got to find a doorway that fits us both.

This is excellent advice. As you orient your reader, so you orient yourself, pointing your work in the direction it needs to go. Now King admits that he doesn’t think much about the opening line as he writes, in a first draft, at least. That perfectly crafted and inviting opening sentence is something that emerges in revision, which can be where the bulk of a writer’s work happens.

Revision in the second draft, “one of them, anyway,” may “necessitate some big changes” says King in his 2000 memoir slash writing guide On Writing. And yet, it is an essential process, and one that “hardly ever fails.” Below, we bring you King’s top twenty rules from On Writing. About half of these relate directly to revision. The other half cover the intangibles—attitude, discipline, work habits. A number of these suggestions reliably pop up in every writer’s guide. But quite a few of them were born of Stephen King’s many decades of trial and error and—writes the Barnes & Noble book blog—“over 350 million copies” sold, “like them or loathe them.”

1. First write for yourself, and then worry about the audience. “When you write a story, you’re telling yourself the story. When you rewrite, your main job is taking out all the things that are not the story.”

2. Don’t use passive voice. “Timid writers like passive verbs for the same reason that timid lovers like passive partners. The passive voice is safe.”

3. Avoid adverbs. “The adverb is not your friend.”

4. Avoid adverbs, especially after “he said” and “she said.”

5. But don’t obsess over perfect grammar. “The object of fiction isn’t grammatical correctness but to make the reader welcome and then tell a story.”

6. The magic is in you. “I’m convinced that fear is at the root of most bad writing.”

7. Read, read, read. ”If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write.”

8. Don’t worry about making other people happy. “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered, anyway.”

9. Turn off the TV. “TV—while working out or anywhere else—really is about the last thing an aspiring writer needs.”

10. You have three months. “The first draft of a book—even a long one—should take no more than three months, the length of a season.”

11. There are two secrets to success. “I stayed physically healthy, and I stayed married.”

12. Write one word at a time. “Whether it’s a vignette of a single page or an epic trilogy like ‘The Lord of the Rings,’ the work is always accomplished one word at a time.”

13. Eliminate distraction. “There should be no telephone in your writing room, certainly no TV or videogames for you to fool around with.”

14. Stick to your own style. “One cannot imitate a writer’s approach to a particular genre, no matter how simple what that writer is doing may seem.”

15. Dig. “Stories are relics, part of an undiscovered pre-existing world. The writer’s job is to use the tools in his or her toolbox to get as much of each one out of the ground intact as possible.”

16. Take a break. “You’ll find reading your book over after a six-week layoff to be a strange, often exhilarating experience.”

17. Leave out the boring parts and kill your darlings. “(kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.)”

18. The research shouldn’t overshadow the story. “Remember that word back. That’s where the research belongs: as far in the background and the back story as you can get it.”

19. You become a writer simply by reading and writing. “You learn best by reading a lot and writing a lot, and the most valuable lessons of all are the ones you teach yourself.”

20. Writing is about getting happy. “Writing isn’t about making money, getting famous, getting dates, getting laid or making friends. Writing is magic, as much as the water of life as any other creative art. The water is free. So drink.”

See a fuller exposition of King’s writing wisdom at Barnes & Noble’s blog.

Note: An earlier version of this post appeared on our site in 2014.

Related Content:

The 69 Pages of Writing Advice Denis Johnson Collected from Flannery O’Connor, Jack Kerouac, Stephen King, Hunter Thompson, Werner Herzog & Many Others

7 Tips From Ernest Hemingway on How to Write Fiction

Kurt Vonnegut’s 8 Tips on How to Write a Good Short Story

Stephen King’s Top 10 All-Time Favorite Books

Josh Jones is a writer and musician based in Durham, NC. Follow him at @jdmagness

The Museum of Wonky English, a Japanese Exhibition Dedicated to Hilarious Mistranslations

I got hooked on Duolingo a few years ago. Since then, I’ve used it daily to practice languages like French, Spanish, Finnish, Chinese, and Japanese. But none of those courses is quite as popular with as many users as the one for English, which is widely spoken around the world — and, inevitably, almost as widely misspoken around the world. Even non-English-speaking countries tend to put up some English-language signage, sparse and strange though it can often be: a handwritten grocer’s sign warning customers not to “finger the peaches”; a notice mounted just above a urinal that urges visitors to “please urinate with precision and elegance.”

These examples come, unsurprisingly, from Japan, whose awkward but vividly memorable written English has long circulated in Western media. That made Tokyo the ideal location for the Museum of Wonky English, a pop-up collaboration between Duolingo Japan and creative agency UltraSuperNew that, as the latter’s site describes it, exhibits “sixteen of the best examples of wonky English found all over Japan.”

When “visitors look at the signs, menus, clothes, and other objects exhibited in the museum — objects that can make them chuckle, gasp, think, and reflect — they will notice there’s more depth to wonky English than they initially thought and become more emboldened to learn a foreign language.”

You can still see some of the Museum of Wonky English’s prized linguistic artifacts in the promotional video above (which provides the original Japanese phrases from which these odd translations sprang), as well as in the pictures accompanying this Japanese-language article. “Please do not eat children and elderly.” “When coffee is gone. It’s over.” “Crap your hands.”

Though unidiomatic at best, these phrases and others exert a kind of power over the imagination. When closely scrutinized, they also illuminate the mechanics of the underlying Japanese language and its differences with English. And though the Museum of Wonky English was open for only a week, a run that ended last week, I can assure you — living, as I do, in Korea — that wonky English itself remains in rude health.

via Spoon and Tamago

Related content:

Learn 48 Languages Online for Free: Spanish, Chinese, English & More

David Foster Wallace Breaks Down Five Common Word Usage Mistakes in English

“Weird Al” Yankovic Releases “Word Crimes,” a Grammar Nerd Parody of “Blurred Lines”

Steven Pinker Identifies 10 Breakable Grammatical Rules: “Who” Vs. “Whom,” Dangling Modifiers & More

What Are the Most Effective Strategies for Learning a Foreign Language?: Six TED Talks Provide the Answers

The Restaurant of Mistaken Orders: A Tokyo Restaurant Where All the Servers Are People Living with Dementia

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

How to Read Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs: A British Museum Curator Explains

If you want to learn to read hieroglyphics, you must first learn that (with apologies to the artists behind “You Never Knew”) there are no such things as hieroglyphics. There are only hieroglyphs, as the British Museum’s curator of ancient writing Ilona Regulski explains in the video just above, and hieroglyphic is the adjectival form. You may remember Regulski from another British Museum video we’ve featured here on Open Culture, about what the Rosetta Stone actually says — which she knows because she can actually read it, not just in the ancient Greek language, but in the ancient Egyptian one. Here, she explains how to interpret its once utterly mysterious symbols.

It would take an incurious viewer indeed not to be captivated by their first glimpse of hieroglyphs, which possess a kind of detail and beauty little seen in other writing systems. Or at least they do when carved into stone, Regulski explains; in more everyday contexts, the impressive arrangements of owls, ankhs, baskets, eyes, and bread loaves took on a more simplified, abstracted form.

Either way, it makes use of a complex and distinctive grammatical system about which we can draw a good deal of insight from examining a single inscription: in this case, an inscription on a lintel glorifying Amenemhat III, “one of the most famous kings of ancient Egypt.”

Those who feel their historical-linguistic curiosity piqued would do well to visit the British Museum’s current exhibition “Hieroglyphs: Unlocking Ancient Egypt,” which runs until February 19th of next year. If you can’t make it to London, you can still go a bit deeper with the video below. Drawn the Great Courses series “Decoding the Secrets of Egyptian Hieroglyphs,” it features Egyptologist Bob Brier’s breakdown of such relevant concepts as phonetics, determinatives, and ideograms, as well as guided exercises in sentence translation and name transliteration. After demonstrating admirable hieroglyphic penmanship (certainly compared to most moderns), Brier leaves us with a homework assignment — just the sort of thing the ancient Egyptians themselves were doing a few millennia ago.

Related content:

An Animated History of Writing: From Ancient Egypt to Modern Writing Systems

You Could Soon Be Able to Text with 2,000 Ancient Egyptian Hieroglyphs

What Ancient Egyptian Sounded Like & How We Know It

An Ancient Egyptian Homework Assignment from 1800 Years Ago: Some Things Are Truly Timeless

3,200-Year-Old Egyptian Tablet Records Excuses for Why People Missed Work: “The Scorpion Bit Him,” “Brewing Beer” & More

A 4,000-Year-Old Student ‘Writing Board’ from Ancient Egypt (with Teacher’s Corrections in Red)

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

Discover Nüshu, a 19th-Century Chinese Writing System That Only Women Knew How to Write

Literacy in Chinese may now be widely attained, but it isn’t easily attained. Just a century ago it wasn’t widely attained either, at least not by half of the Chinese speakers alive. As a rule, women once weren’t taught the thousands of logographic characters necessary to read and write in the language. But in one particular section of the land, Jiangyong County in Hunan province, some did master the 600 to 700 characters of a phonetic script made to reflect the local dialect and now called Nüshu (女书), or “women’s writing.”

In its heyday, Nüshu’s users had a variety of names for it, “including ‘mosquito writing,’ because it is a little slanted and with long ‘legs,'” writes Ilaria Maria Sala in a Quartz piece on the script’s history. Its greatest concentration of practitioners lived in “the village of Shangjiangxu, where young girls exchanged small tokens of friendly affection, such as fans decorated with calligraphy or handkerchiefs embroidered with a few auspicious words.”

Other, more formal occasions for the use of Nüshu, included when girls decided to “make a full-fledged pact of closeness with one another that they were ‘best friends’ — jiebai zimei or ‘sworn sisters’ — a relationship that was recognized as valuable and even necessary for them in the local social system. Such a once-obscure chapter of Chinese history has proven irresistible to readers from a variety of cultures in recent decades.

“Most interpretations and headlines have been about a ‘secret language’ that women used, preferably to communicate their pain,” writes Sala, which struck her as evidence of people taking the story of Nüshu and “reading into it what they wanted, regardless of what it meant.” Yet such an interpretation has surely done its part to spread interest in the near-extinct’s script’s revival, described by’s Andrew Lofthouse as originating in “the tiny village of Puwei, which is surrounded by the Xiao river and only accessible via a small suspension bridge.” After three Nüshu writers were discovered there in the eighties, “it became the focal point for Nüshu research. In 2006, the script was listed as a National Intangible Cultural Heritage by the State Council of China, and a year later, a museum was built on Puwei Island.”

There training is provided to the few select “interpreters or ‘inheritors’ of the language, learning to read, write, sing and embroider Nüshu.” Ironically, Lofthouse adds, “much of what we know about Nüshu is due to the work of male researcher Zhou Shuoyi” who happened to hear of it in the nineteen-fifties and was later persecuted during Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution — a treatment that included 21 years in a labor camp — for having researched such an artifact of the feudal past. Once a useful tool for expressing emotions and performing social rituals socialization, Nüshu had become politically dangerous. What it becomes now, half a century later and with its renewal only just beginning, is up to its new learners.

Related content:

Free Chinese Lessons

The Improbable Invention of Chinese Typewriters & Computer Keyboards: Three Videos Tell the Techno-Cultural Story

The World’s Oldest Multicolor Book, a 1633 Chinese Calligraphy & Painting Manual, Now Digitized and Put Online

How Writing Has Spread Across the World, from 3000 BC to This Year: An Animated Map

How to Write in Cuneiform, the Oldest Writing System in the World: A Short, Charming Introduction

Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and culture. His projects include the Substack newsletter Books on Cities, the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.

More in this category... »
Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.