Sunday, November 25, 2007

Oracle bone script (Chinese: 甲骨文; pinyin: jiǎgǔwén; literally "shell bone writing") refers to incised (or, rarely, brush-written) ancient Chinese characters found on oracle bones, which are animal bones or turtle shells used in divination in ancient China. The vast majority of the such bones are ox scapulae and tortoise plastrons which record the pyromantic divinations of the royal house of the late Shang dynasty, primarily at the capital of Yin (modern Anyang, Henan Province), and date from around 1200-1050 B.C., while a very few date to the beginning of the subsequent Zhou dynasty. The late Shang oracle bone writings, along with a few contemporary characters in cast bronzes, constitute the earliest significant corpus of Chinese writing, but contrary to popular belief are not the earliest Chinese characters. Some have proposed that oracle bone script is linked with Jiahu Script.

Replica of ancient Chinese script on an oracle turtle shell
Oracle script from a divining
Oracle script script inquiry about rain
Oracle bone script Oracle script script inquiry about rain (annotated)
Oracle script for Spring
Oracle script for Autumn
Oracle script for Winter

Oracle bone script Notes

Keightley, David N. (1978). Sources of Shang History: The Oracle-Bone Inscriptions of Bronze Age China. University of California Press, Berkeley. Large format hardcover, ISBN 0520029690 (out of print); A 1985 ppbk 2nd edition also printed, ISBN 0-520-05455-5.
Keightley, David N. (2000). The Ancestral Landscape: Time, Space, and Community in Late Shang China (ca. 1200 – 1045 B.C.). China Research Monograph 53, Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California – Berkeley. ISBN 1-55729-070-9, ppbk.
Qiu Xigui (裘錫圭) Chinese Writing (2000). Translation of 文字學概要 by Gilbert L. Mattos and Jerry Norman. Early China Special Monograph Series No. 4. Berkeley: The Society for the Study of Early China and the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley. ISBN 1-55729-071-7.
Woon, Wee Lee (雲惟利) (1987). Chinese Writing: Its Origin and Evolution (漢字的原始和演變), originally published by the University of East Asia, Macau (no ISBN).

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