How Did Chinese Sign Language Start?

Chinese Sign Language (CSL), also known as Ziran Shouyu, is a complex and richly expressive language used by the deaf community in China. While the first deaf school using CSL was founded in 1887 by American missionary C.R. Mills and his wife, it’s important to note that CSL developed independently and was not directly influenced by ASL.

Where Did Chinese Sign Language Come From?

Chinese Sign Language (CSL) has a rich history that can be traced back to ancient times. The first references to sign language in Chinese literature date back to the Tang Dynasty, which ruled from the 7th to the 10th century. During this era, a sign for mirror was documented, marking the earliest known sign in CSL.

The development of CSL continued into the Song Dynasty, which followed the Tang Dynasty and lasted from the 10th to the 13th century. An influential figure during this time was Su Dongpo, a poet and statesman. In his writings, Su Dongpo described a community that employed a form of sign language. This suggests that sign language was not only used by individuals but also had a place within specific communities and groups.

In recent years, there have been efforts to document and preserve CSLs history. Researchers have delved into ancient texts, artworks, and historical records to uncover more information about the origins and development of CSL. Through these efforts, CSL has gained recognition as a unique and valuable language that deserves attention and respect.

As with any living language, CSL has evolved and adapted to the needs of it’s users throughout history. Today, CSL continues to thrive and serves as an essential tool for communication within the Chinese Deaf community.

Sign Language Education in China: Discuss the History and Current State of Sign Language Education in China, Including the Availability of Resources and the Challenges Faced by Deaf Students.

  • Introduction to sign language education in China
  • Historical development of sign language education in China
  • Current state of sign language education in China
  • Availability of resources for sign language education in China
  • Challenges faced by deaf students in sign language education

Despite the historical influence of American missionaries in establishing the first Chinese school for the deaf, Chinese Sign Language (CSL) differs significantly from American Sign Language (ASL). CSL incorporates elements of Chinese language and culture, resulting in a distinct system of communication.

Is Chinese Sign Language the Same as American?

Chinese Sign Language (CSL) has a unique history that sets it apart from American Sign Language (ASL). It’s important to note that although the first school for the deaf in China was established by American missionaries, CSL isn’t inherently related to ASL.

The cultural and linguistic influences on CSL are evident in the signs used. Many signs incorporate aspects of Chinese language and culture, making it distinct from other sign languages around the world. Chinese characters, for example, may be integrated into signs, reflecting the written language used by the majority of the Chinese population.

In recent years, efforts have been made to standardize CSL across the country. This standardized version of CSL aims to promote consistency and facilitate communication between individuals who use different regional variations of the language.

However, despite these efforts, regional variations of CSL are still prevalent.


Unlike some other sign languages, CSL was not directly influenced by American Sign Language. Instead, it developed independently and has since grown to include several dialects, with Shanghai CSL being the most commonly used. The establishment of schools and workshops for the deaf in China has been instrumental in spreading CSL and providing a platform for deaf individuals to communicate and thrive within their own communities. As CSL continues to evolve and adapt, it stands as a testament to the resilience and vibrant linguistic heritage of the Chinese deaf community.

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