Deaf History: Eastern Asia

A survey of historical and ethnographic accounts offers insight into deaf people’s contributions to life in Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and China from ancient times to the early 20th century. From a typological viewpoint, this history suggests that sign languages used in eastern Asia were almost definitely classified into two main groups: sign languages derived from Japanese Sign Language and those derived from Chinese Sign Language, including diverse dialects that would come to be influenced by European and/or American sign languages.


The Yōrō ritsuryō legal code, enforced in 757, included descriptions concerning the recognition and classification of disabled people, including those labeled as being deaf (mimishi(h)i). Some historical documents and pictures, particularly a folding screen titled Festival of Hôkoku Shrine, indicate that deaf people took part in ...

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