Jiaguwen and Jinwen

The earliest Chinese written language appeared in the Shang Dynasty(c.1600-1100 B.C.). At that time, people believed in ghosts and practiced divination on important occasions. They inscribed divination words on tortoise shells or animal bones, and painted them red to symbolize good luck or black to symbolize potential disaster. The words were inscribed with knives. Some of them are big, some are small, some are complicated, some are simple, but they are all well defined.

Examples of shell and bone writing were not found until Emperor Guangxu's reign during the Qing Dynasty (1644 -1911), thousands of years after they we re made .The discovery occurred in Anyang, Henan Province, which was the capital city of the Shang Dynasty. In 1a99, the banks of the Huanshui River in Henan Province collapsed, and many tortoise shells with carved patterns on them were revealed. At first, people regarded the shells as dragon bones and used them as medicine. The following year, a merchant named Wang Yirong developed an interest in the shells, and went to Henan to collect more of them. Later a scholar, Liu Er, continued the collection. They collected more than 5,000 pieces, which were given the name of Jiaguwen.(Fig.1-3)

Philologists, who subsequently researched more than 100000 shell and bone pieces, discovered the structure of Jiaguwen had changed into legible characters complete with recognized signs. The shell and bone writing had shown a certain degree of maturity. Of the more than 4,60O distinct characters in these pieces, some 1,700 have been identified.

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