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Sui script
Script type
DirectionTop-to-bottom, columns right to left
LanguagesSui language
ISO 15924
ISO 15924Shui (530), ​Shuishu
U+1B300 to U+1B4FF (tentative)
 This article contains phonetic transcriptions in the International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA). For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA. For the distinction between [ ], / / and  , see IPA § Brackets and transcription delimiters.

The Sui script (Sui: le1 sui3,[1] Simplified Chinese: 水书, Traditional Chinese: 水書, Pinyin: Shuǐshū) or Shuishu, is a logographic writing system with some pictographic characters that can be used to write the Sui language (Wei 2003:xxix).[2] However, traditionally only shamans were familiar with the writing system, and it is not utilized for everyday use by ordinary Sui people. This system is used for geomancy and divination purposes. There are at least 500 different Sui characters, known as le1 sui3 in the Sui language (Wei 2003:xxix). According to tradition, these characters were created by ljok8 to2 qong5 (Chinese: Lù Duógōng 陸鐸公). Some of these characters are pictorial representations, such as of a bird or a fish, and a few are schematic representations of a characteristic quality, such a snail represented by a drawing of an inward curving spiral. Many of these characters appear to be borrowings from Chinese characters and are written backwards, apparently for increased supernatural power.


It has been proposed by some that the Sui script bear somewhat similarities to the Xia Tao symbols in the Erlitou site, Yanshi, Henan. The Sui script can be used to roughly interpret its meaning, which has attracted the attention of the archaeological community. Furthermore, the possibility has risen that the ancestors of the Sui people originally came from more to the north or that the Xia Tao symbols influenced the Sui script.[3][4][5][6]

The Sui script is in acute danger of extinction, although the Chinese government is currently attempting to preserve it.[7] In 2006, Shuishu was placed on the Chinese intangible cultural heritage list.[8]


The Sui script was handed down from generation to generation, and its shape is similar to the Oracle bone script and the Bronze script. It is mainly used to record cultural information such as astronomy, geography, religion, folklore, ethics, philosophy and other cultural information. The Sui script is not phonetic and one needs special knowledge to interpret a text.[9]

The script is written mostly vertically downward and from right to left, and does not employ punctuation. The script cannot fully represent the Sui language.[10]


The Sui script contains three types of characters: Chinese variants, primitive pictographs and abstract symbols. Each character expresses a concept and stands for a syllable. The characters can be classified in three categories: logographs, dubbing characters and prompting characters. About half of the Sui characters are derived from mirrored, upside-down or slightly twisted Chinese characters. The other half of the characters are original creations and some are primitive pictographs. Lastly, dubbing characters supplement syllables in a sentence, while prompting characters indicate that the reader should read or sing the sentence aloud.[10]


As of 2018, discussion on Sui script integration into Unicode were ongoing.[11]


  1. ^ ""Shuǐshū" jíqí zàozì fāngfǎ yánjiū" “水书”及其造字方法研究. Qiánnán mínzú shīfàn xuéyuàn xuébào 黔南民族师范学院学报. 25 (1). 2005.
  2. ^ Zhou, Minglang (2003). Multilingualism in China: The Politics of Writing Reforms for Minority Languages, 1949–2002. Berlin: Mouton de Gruyter. pp. 132–135.
  3. ^ "Gǔlǎo Shuǐshū: Jiǎnshí wénmíng de jìyì" 古老水书:捡拾文明的记忆. Zhōngguó mínsúxué wǎng 中国民俗学网 (in Chinese). 2006-07-09.
  4. ^ Ren, Chaoliang 任朝亮; Sui, Xuan 穗宣 (2014-04-09). "Zhūjiāng shàngyóu de Shuǐzú shì Zhōngyuán guìzú hòuyì (tú)" 珠江上游的水族是中原贵族后裔(图). (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2018-07-26. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  5. ^ "Zhuānjiā zài pòyì "Shuǐshū" guòchéng zhōngzhōng zhǎodào 18 gè xià táo wénzì" 专家在破译“水书”过程中中找到18个夏陶文字. (in Chinese). 2005-03-14. Archived from the original on 2018-07-26. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  6. ^ Zhou, Furong 周芙蓉 (2004-09-15). "Xiàngxíng wénzì huóhuàshí "Shuǐshū" chuánchéng shuǐzú lìshǐ" 象形文字活化石"水书"传承水族历史. (in Chinese). Archived from the original on 2004-10-28. Retrieved 2017-07-19.
  7. ^ "Books in Rare Ancient Characters of Shui Group Retrieved". People's Daily. Xinhua. April 1, 2004. Archived from the original on 2012-10-03. Retrieved 2008-09-01.
  8. ^ "Shui Included in China's Intangible Cultural Heritage List". National Working Group for IPR Protection, Ministry of Commerce of the People's Republic of China. August 8, 2006. Retrieved 2008-08-28.[dead link]
  9. ^ "水书习俗详细介绍" [Detailed introduction to Shuishu customs]. 中國非物質文化遺產名錄數據庫系統 (China Intangible Cultural Heritage List Database System). 中國非物質文化遺產名錄數據庫系統 (China Intangible Cultural Heritage List Database System). 2006. Archived from the original on 2007-10-12.
  10. ^ a b Preliminary Proposal for Encoding Shuishu in the SMP of the UCS (PDF), 2015, archived from the original (PDF) on 2019-06-14, retrieved 2021-09-23
  11. ^ West, Andrew; Chan, Eiso (2018), Analysis of Shuishu Character Repertoire (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 2021-06-13, retrieved 2021-09-23