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Journeys in Time 2010-09-12 Legends from the Central Plains (2)- Mysterious luscriptious from antiquity Part 2

09-13-2010 07:28 BJT

The jia gu wen were found in Xiaotun village in Anyang County, Henan Province, which is part of China’s Central Plains region. In 1899, a scholar from Beijing named Wang Yirong noticed symbols that looked like writing inscribed on some so-called ‘dragon bones’ he’d been prescribed by a pharmacy. The discovery opened up a whole new area of research, as scholars set about investigating where the bones had been unearthed and what historical era they dated from. And then, of course, there was the matter of deciphering the inscriptions. What secrets could the 3000-year-old characters reveal about Bronze Age China?

The discovery of the ‘big four’ proved to be crucial for deciphering the jiaguwen characters, because they were so heavily inscribed with characters. By cross-referencing among the ‘big four’, Dong Zuobin was able to reach a conclusion on the meaning of one particular character.

In Nanjing, researchers spent eight months cleaning, separating, drawing and numbering the entire layer of animal bones. Seventeen thousand and ninety six pieces of bone were identified, and the writing on them revealed extensive information about almost every aspect of life in the late Shang Dynasty. 

The research on the oracle bones has been undertaken by a succession of scholars. After Wang Yirong in 1899 recognized the characters as being an ancient Chinese script, Liu E identified thirty-four characters. Subsequently Luo Zhenyu, by recognizing the names of the Shang kings, positively dated the oracle bones back to the Shang Dynasty. And Wang Guowei demonstrated that the chronology of the Shang emperors matched that in Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian. Then came Dong Zuobin’s research into the ‘big four’, which revealed that the Jiaguwen were characters used in a divining ceremony. Thanks to the efforts of all these scholars down through the years, we now have a remarkable insight into the lives of our Shang Dynasty ancestors living on the Central Plains. 

Editor:James |Source: CNTV

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