Monday, October 4, 2010

The Zou Script

KhaiMinthang, USA, 7th March 2010
Oral tradition maintained that the Zou people once have had their own written script in olden days. Emperor Shih Huang-di (First Sovereign Qin Emperor – Chinese: ????; Qing Shih Huang-di) defeated the Warring States (Seven Kingdoms) and became the first emperor of China in 221 BC, until his death in 210 BC. Between the period of 213 and 206 BC, the Hundred Schools of Thought were pruned and legalism survived. Beginning in 213 BCE, all classic works of the Hundred Schools of Thought — except those from Li Si’s own school of philosophy known as legalism — were subject to book burning. It was during that period that the Zou script was confiscated and burned down by the Chinese emperor Shih Huang-di, who enslaved them to build a certain portion of the Great Wall of China. Another tradition maintained that the Zou script that was written on a leather scroll. The leather scroll that was inserted on the inner-roof of a house felled down on the muddy wastewater. The leather decomposed and later was eaten by a dog. The third tradition maintained that the Zou script was written on leather and a bark. The first one was written on leather, and the last written on a bark. Unfortunately, a hungry dog ate the leather on which the script was written, and the script written on the bark was burned. Quite ridiculous, yet the late Rev. Khup Za Go said “The Zo script was eaten up by a hungry dog” in his book entitled Christianity in Chinland. The story goes such that the only script that they have was written on a piece of animal skin and there was only one person taking care of it. The person who took care of the script traveled to another place on foot, with his dog. It apparently was a hot and sunny day. He passed by a creek and stripped off his load and went down the creek to get a sip of it. Then, the saddest story ever told happened there – The script was eaten up by his hungry dog.

One must be very clear of the Zou culture that gives derogatory names such as dog, jackal, wolf, tiger-man, etc. to someone they hate or someone who is foreign to them. This is true even today. This could be found in one of the Zou folklores which says, “Nidang in la Kawl Mangpa zi’n ka um ee; Tunla tunla ngahsanu nau ka ching ee.” (I was once the queen/wife of the lord of Ava; Now, I am baby-sitting the she-jackal’s child). This is also true with the Chinese culture who called their neighboring Yao tribes ‘Wild dog or jackal.” This might have been true with the incident of the lost script. So, if this was true, the Zou script might have been confiscated by their enemies. The event of the lost script was followed by a Dark Age in Zou history where they didn’t have time to rewrite the script. Barbarism because of staying in the caves for long times could possibly contribute to the lost script. Dr. David Vumlallian Zou opined, “In traditional Zou society, the knowledge of script (If at all it existed) would have been confined to a small section of the people like the village priest or the tribal chieftain.” The lost script has become legends and myths to the Zou people now. Whatever the case it might have been, I am reminded of Sing Khaw Khai’s words, “In fact, legends and myths are not the creation of memories, but are the reminiscence of the past experiences.” Therefore, it would be safe to conclude that there was the Zou script in ancient times.

The second generation of the Zou script came in multiple forms – the Pau Cin Hau’s script in 1902, Dr. Khuplam’s script in 1949, and the Siahzathang’s script in 1952. These three scripts were invented by Zou natives based on their revelation of the last script. It did not get any popularity mainly because of the fact that the Zou people of that time were uncivilized, and don’t really bother if or not they have any script.

In the Chin Hills of Burma, Pau Cin Hau claimed to have been revealed a script which he called Tual Lai (Local script). “The Pau Cin Hau script is the ecclesiastical script of the Laipian religious tradition, which developed in the Chin Hills region at the turn of the 20th century. The script is named after Pau Cin Hau (1859–1948), a ‘Sukte’ (Tedim) Chin, who founded the Laipian tradition and developed the script in order to convey his teachings” says Anshuman Pandey who made a research on the Pau Cin Hau’s script. The revised alphabet consists of 21 consonants, and the Sermon on the Mount in St. Matthew was printed in this script in 1931.

In Manipur, Dr. Khuplam Milui Lenthang claimed to have been revealed a script by YHWH for the Chikim people (Chikim is an abbreviated form used by some Zou writers to denote the Chin, Kuki and Mizo ethnic groups). Although he had been struggling to rewrite the lost script since 1949, his hard work on the script got paid off in 1967. He was quoted to have said that after a profound prayer to YHWH and deep meditation on the Scripture, he got the revelation of the lost script. His script called “Bulpizem” has 32 characters and numerals 1 to 10. He sent his Bulpizem to Mr. Lal Thanhawla the then Chief Minister of Mizoram for further research.

In Manipur, M. Siahzathang Zou claimed to have discovered the old Zou Lai (Zou script) in his father’s diary book. If this was true, where did Siahzathang’s father get the script? He further developed the original 25 characters of the alphabet into the present form of 27 characters with numerals 1 to 10 in 1952. The Manipur State Kala Academy has twice honored the achievements of M. Siahzathang Zou both in 1976 and in 1991. The United Zomi Organization adopted the M. Siahzathang’s system of writing as the Zou script in 1976 at its General Assembly held at Tuaitengphai. This system of writing gained momentum among the Zou students of the 1970s for the first time that was followed by gradual decline in the late 1980s. It has been resurrected again in the late 1990s when the Zou Literature Society became functional again. The ZLS had their sub-committee named Zou Laimal Saipawl who brought out mimeographed copies of Zoulai Sinna (Zoulai Self-instructor) in 1999. Furthermore, the Zolai Simpat Bu (Zou Primary Book) was released on October 10, 2009 at the Zoumunnuom Community Hall, Churachandpur, Manipur, by the then Education minister of Manipur L. Jayantakumar Singh.

The third generation of the Zou script began with the formation of International Phonetic Association. In 1886, a group of French and British language teachers, led by the French linguist Paul Passy, formed what would come to be known (from 1897 onwards) as the International Phonetic Association. The original alphabet was based on a spelling reform for English known as the Romic alphabet, but in order to make it usable for other languages, the values of the symbols were allowed to vary from language to language. It was only after the IPA formation that the missionaries in Zou inhabited areas begin to introduce new scripts for the Zou people, at different period and region.

In Mizoram, this dialect (Duhlian dialect of the politically dominant Lusei clan) received a further boost when Christian missionaries arrived in 1894, namely, Rev. F.W. Savidge and Rev. J.H. Lorrain, who reduced the language into writing, using a simple and effective phonetic Hunterian system of Roman script. In the Chin Hills, Rev. JH Cope introduced Kamhaw dialect into writing in 1910.

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