Ancient Chinese Writing System

The Ancient Chinese Writing System had a uniqueness of its own. Although the origin of writing in China dates from 3500 years ago, many trace the origin of writing to much older dates. However, it is undisputed that Ancient Chinese Writing System is one of the oldest systems of documented languages in the world. China is among the first societies that adopted a formal writing language. Chinese differs from the English language because the former is based on symbols that represent a whole concept whereas the latter consists of letters based on phonetics.

Ancient Chinese Writing System

The Chinese language system

The Chinese language system is complexly consisting of thousands of characters. Symbols in the form of oracle bone script discovered traces back to the Shang dynasty. The script on these oracle bones is known as Jiaguwen or shell bone writing. They were used for divination. Divination was a process whereby the bones were heated and the cracks thus formed was studied to find solutions to one’s questions. The bones were then inscribed with details of the questions and the answers.

The Chinese Symbols system

Symbols have also been discovered from the Chou dynasties from 1100 BC. Fragments of Neolithic poetry were excavated in which writing symbols were inscribed. The Chinese writing system is popularly called Sinography. Writing in China began in the form of pictograms. Symbols began to be carved on pottery. The fishing heron ax from the Yangzhou culture and the clan emblem from Shang dynasty are examples. However, signs can also have multiple interpretations. Therefore additional symbols began to be inserted to distinguish one from the other.

The Chinese Writing System

Study onĀ Ancient Chinese Writing System demands patience and skill as the system is complex and vast. The oracle bone script was otherwise known as Jiaguwen. This is the earliest Chinese form of writing existed in the middle and late Shang dynasty. This is more a pictographic form of writing as pictures symbolized characters of the objects they represent. For example, an oval-shaped circle with a mark inside represented the sun. It is still used in the preparation of some scrolls.

Dazhuan represents the next stage of Chinese writing as it existed from the Late Shang to Chou dynasties. Appeared generally on cast bronze vessels, it was also known as a greater seal. The lesser seal or Xiaochuan was known for its elegance. It continued to be used today in calligraphy and seals.

Lishu was the governmental or clerky script. The government was in need of a script for administrative purposes and Lishu script fulfilled this need. It was widely used both in the Qin and Han dynasties. Lishu was a simplified script containing lesser strokes. It was easy to articulate this script through brushes and pens because of the inherent flow of the script. Lishu script is identical with the modern Chinese writing language.

Kaishu appeared towards the end of Han dynasty was very similar to Lishu. The Running script or Xingshu was a cursive version of Lishu. Caoshu script appeared during the Qin dynasty. Later, The Chinese script influenced other languages like Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese etc.