MOOC "Introduction to Dongba writing": 2nd session

20 March 2024
  • Distance learning

  • Digital education

  • Training

Discover Dongba pictograms, Naxi writing and culture!

This MOOC, developed by Inalco (France), the University of Geneva (Switzerland) and BLCU (China), is offered in a multilingual version (French, English, Chinese and German), and is open to a wide audience: researchers, students and the general public. It aims to transmit a highly original style of writing, and enables everyone to contribute to the preservation of a unique cultural heritage classified as "Memory of the World" by UNESCO in 2003.

The course runs from April 15 to June 17, 2024. Registrations are open until June 9, 2024 on the France Université Numérique platform.
Main tenant une page du manuscrit
Manuscrit Naxi pendant la cérémonie © Zhang Xu Tayulam 1990 (Photo avec l'aimable autorisation de l'Association pour la promotion de la culture Dongba de Pékin-ADCA)‎
Contenu central

This MOOC, offered in cooperation with UNESCO, is the first in the "Indigenous Languages and Cultures" series carried by Inalco's AHFLO' project (Accompagnement de l'Hybridation des Formations en Langues et civilisations Orientales).

Implemented by Inalco (France), the University of Geneva (Switzerland) and the Beijing Advanced Innovation Center for Language Resources (ACLR) at BLCU (China), the project was initiated by Joël Bellassen, expert in language and culture didactics, designer of Inalco's Chinese MOOC (Inalco/PLIDAM) ; joined by Jue Wang Szilas, project executive manager, expert in didactics of languages and cultures with Information and Communication Technologies for Teaching (ICTT) at the University of Geneva, and member of the PLIDAM research team (Inalco).

The MOOC is also being promoted in China via the national platform XuetangX.

What is Dongba script? Dongba script is the script of the Naxi ethnic minority, some 300,000 people, who occupy the northern part of Yunnan province, in southwest China and at the foot of Tibet. Composed of some 1,400 characters, this endangered script is considered the world's last pictographic script. Dongba pictograms are of great cultural significance, representing both the fossilized remains of primitive pictographic writing and a manifestation of the beliefs of the Naxi people. This shamanism is based on nature worship, combined with folk beliefs and Tibetan influences.

What you'll learn

By the end of this course, you'll know:

  • identify the main features of the Dongba script and Naxi culture,
  • describe the basic construction principles of the Dongba writing system,
  • recognize and decode the meaning of 300 Dongba characters,
  • write the main Dongba characters encountered throughout this MOOC,
  • briefly analyze certain cultural phenomena linked to the dongba script,
  • develop an awareness relating to the need for the preservation and transmission of the dongba script, and more generally, of endangered or endangered languages.

Description of the MOOC

Facilitated by an international team of researchers, the course offers the learning of 300 basic characters of the Dongba script and raises awareness of the cultural traits characterizing the Naxi ethnic group: the human being, the natural environment, daily life and religious ceremonies.

It takes place over 9 weeks of classes (7 modules). Estimated working time is 5 hours per week.

Each module includes short instructional videos followed by interactive practice exercises (ungraded), summary exercises and a cultural component.

A discussion forum will enable you to co-construct your knowledge with other MOOC participants.

The pedagogical team

Joël BELLASSEN, project initiator, expert in language and culture didactics, member of the PLIDAM team, Inalco
LI Yuming, expert in language policy, director of the ACLR Center, Beijing University of Languages and Cultures
WANG SZILAS Jue, project executive manager, expert in didactics of languages and cultures with ICTE, University of Geneva and member of the PLIDAM team, Inalco
YANG Yihua, Naxi researcher in Dongba writing, lecturer at South West University, Chongqing, China
ZHOU Yin, researcher in Naxi culture and dongba script, lecturer at Chongqing Jiaotong University, China


Registrations are open until June 9, 2024 on the France Université Numérique platform.

MOOC Initiation to Dongba writing - 2nd session
Course starts: Monday April 15, 2024.

A version in English of the MOOC is accessible on the FUN platform.
Presentations of the MOOC in Chinese and in German are also available.

View the presentation video