From a personal letter by an unknown author written in the early twentieth century in Nüshu, a rare form of modified Chinese that has been used exclusively by women for hundreds of years in a district of Hunan Province. Writings in Nüshu were always in verse. The last woman proficient in Nüshu died in September. The letter was translated by Cathy Silber and will be included in her forthcoming book, Writing from the Useless Branch: Text and Practice in Nüshu Culture.
Listen here, wench, It's no wonder someone as low-class as you could lie the way you did, Since cows can't mince words. When the sum is right, no one minds if the money gets counted. When there's enough rice, no one minds if it gets measured. I live in a proper home on a proper lane, Not like you, you rutting swine. The mountain boar has a season for heat, But a hot and saucy hussy like you never quits. I've always been a proper girl, Not out whoring for free. You people are all the same--trash, A whole family full of unpaid whores. My grandfather raised his girls so well— They were the best around when they married. Go anywhere, ask anybody, you piece of trash: There's not a word of gossip out there about us. Not a single misstep from one generation to the next. But you, wench, you sure know how to lie. What you said about me in your letter! I was a precious girl upstairs, A quarrelsome word never escaped my lips. So whatever you say about me just won't stick. You should think it over: You just can't say what you said. You may weigh really high on your own scales, But in the basket, you're light as a feather. How could I possibly be like a second wife at your place? You're the one who likes being a slut, So why not come over to our house and be one here? You're just in time: your matches with our men Might as well have been made in heaven. It's so rare to find a village as fine as mine with so few children, So, cheap thing, why not come over and bear us a few? I'm sure the men in our family would be delighted: Do the paperwork to live apart from your family, you slut, and come on over So one of our men can take you as a second wife. Sluts in heat are pretty rare, But you just step out your door and you've already given birth: I don't know how many kids you've popped. You made yourself sound so heroic in your letter, but you started it: I've got grounds to write back here. Like goes with like: dragon with dragon, phoenix with phoenix, What's a whore like you doing talking to me?