Oracle script

From Academic Kids

Oracle bone script (Template:Zh-cpl) are incised characters found on ox scapulae and tortoise plastrons (oracle bones) thought to be the earliest Chinese characters.

Oracle bone script is seen to develop over the several generations of Shang kings, so there is no single defined form of for each character.

The bones and script were used in the practice of scapulomancy: the diviner would inscribe on the bone or shell his name, the current date of the sexagesimal cycle and then inscribe two possible outcomes on the shell. Depending on how the fired object cracked, diviners would interpret the answer from them. For example:

"Test : Tomorrow it will rain"
"Test: Tomorrow it will not rain"

The outcome was then inscribed on the bone and saved. The inscriptions are known as jiaguwen (甲骨文) or oracle bone inscriptions.

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

Oracle bone characters may have components which differ in later characters, for instance the character for Autumn 秋 now appears with 禾 as one component and fire 火 as another component. From the Oracle script, one sees that an ant-like creature is carved instead.

Of the thousands of characters found from all the bone fragments, the majority remain undeciphered. One good example is shown in fragment labeled "Oracle script for Spring". The top left character in this image has no modern Chinese character counterpart to date. One of the better known characters however is shown directly beneath it looking like an upright iscosceles triangle with a line cutting through the upper portion. This is the Oracle script character for 王 "wng" or King.

See also


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