Nu Shu Reading Ielts Answers and Questions

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  • IELTS Reading Matching Headings
  • IELTS Reading Multiple Choice Questions
  • IELTS Reading True False Not Given

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Nu Shu Reading Passage

Nu Shu – A Secret Language

How men and women speak different languages is a common stereotype. This was the case for hundreds of years in Jiangyong county, Hunan Province, China. Women created their own secret alphabet and language called Nu Shu (literally, “women’s language”) between 400 and 1,000 years ago in protest of patriarchal traditions that banned them from reading or writing. Nu shu was able to flourish and spread without raising too many eyebrows because of the informal networks of sworn sisters’ who pledged to teach the language only to other women and the creative methods in which it was used (such as writing characters on a beautiful fan).

As compared to the traditional Chinese script, Nu shu differs in a number of important orthographic ways. Nu shu characters are thin, slanted, and have a slightly scratchy’ appearance, similar to calligraphy, while traditional Chinese characters have huge, bold strokes that look like they might have been fashioned with a thick permanent marker pen. In contrast to the logographic nature of conventional Chinese, where individual characters represent words and meanings, Nu shu is totally phonetic, with each character representing a single sound. It’s possible that just a small fraction of the coded meanings that Nu shu users created for words and phrases will ever be understood. Several Nu shu mysteries have been buried with their keepers.

The goal of creating Nu shu was to give women a safe space in which to talk freely to one another. This need came in part from women’s desire for isolation, and Nu shu provided that by providing a space for introverted female writers to express themselves in a culture traditionally dominated by men. Yet there was also a sensible reason for the spread of Nu shu: up until the mid-20th century, women were rarely encouraged to learn conventional Chinese writing. In its place, Nu shu offered a functional and simple replacement. Due to marriage, many women were isolated from their families and friends, therefore , used “letters. Nu shu characters, however, were painted or embroidered onto everyday goods like fans, pillowcases, and handkerchiefs and incorporated in ‘artwork’ to avoid alerting men’s suspicions in the same way traditional letters did.

In the decades following the Chinese Revolution, when more women were driven towards learning the conventional Chinese script, the demand for the traditional female language gradually waned. In the 1960s, the Red Guard found the script and assumed it was an espionage code. They were suspicious and anxious after discovering it was a coded language spoken only by women. Women were prohibited from engaging in Nu shu rituals, and many letters, weavings, and embroideries were destroyed. This resulted in the breakdown of the cultural practices of passing languages down through generations of sworn sisters. Yang Huanyi, the last fluent speaker of Nu shu, passed away on September 20, 2004, while she was in her late 90s, hence the language is now completely extinct in its traditional form.

In recent years, nonetheless, there has been a boom of academic and public interest in Nu shu. Nu Shu Museum, housing treasures like audio recordings, manuscripts, and articles, some of which date back over a century, was funded by a US$209,000 grant from the Ford Foundation. Several schools in the area have started teaching the language to students owing to the investment from Hong Kong SAR, and infrastructure is being built at potential tourism locations in Hunan. It’s worth noting that Lisa See’s historical novel also features the practice of Nushu. In recent years, the novel Snow Flower and the Hidden Fan has had a film adaptation.

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Nu Shu IELTS Reading Questions

Questions 1-5

Reading Passage has five sections, A-E.

From the list of headings below, choose the right one for each section.

Write the right numbers I-VIII in boxes 1-5 on your answer sheet.

  1. Section A
  2. Section B
  3. Section C
  4. Section D
  5. Section E

I.  Financial costs           
II.  Decline and disuse         
III. Birth and development         
IV. Political uses of Nushu         
V. The social role of Nushu         
VI.  Last of the Nushu speakers       
VII.Characteristics of written Nushu       
VIII.Revival and contemporary interest

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Questions 6 and 7

Pick TWO letters from A to E. Boxes 6 and 7 on your answer sheet are where you should write your answers.

Why was there a need for Nushu? Which TWO reasons does the text give?

  • Female craftspeople had new artistic opportunities.
  • It helped illiterate women read and write.
  • Few women were reading.
  • Women could secretly communicate.
  • It gave women confidence.

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Questions 8-13

Are the following claims accurate with the passage’s information? Write

TRUE                   if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE                   if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN        if there is no information on this

8. Women were discouraged from learning to read or write after the Revolution.
9. The Red Guard initially suspected that Nushu was a spying instrument.
10.In other countries, women who use Nushu face the death penalty.
11.  Traditional methods of teaching Nu Shu are now outdated.
12. Money can be made out off people’s fascination with Nushu.
13.The teaching of Nushu is now public.

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Nu Shu reading answers

1. III
2. VII
3. V
4. II
6. B
7. D
8. False
9. True
10. Not Given
11. True
12. Not Given
13. True


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