The Development of Chinese Script

[ 2005-06-15 20:23:59 pm | Author: Admin ]
                                     The Development of Chinese Script

Mythology gives us different accounts of the origin of Chinese script. The simpliest version is the invention of script by Cangjie or Cang Jie
倉頡, a minister of the Yellow Emperor (Huang Di or Huangdi 黃帝) who saw the traces of bird feet in the mud and used these imprints as example for a pictorial script. The book Laozi 老子 reports of the ancient times when people used tying knots (jiesheng 結繩) to communicate by "letter". Some people interprete the Eight Trigrams (bagua 八卦 and the resulting hexagrams of the divining book Yijing 易經 as a precursor type of script. Other stories report of a river tortoise with imprints or patterns on its back that served as idea for the development of a script by Fuxi (Fu Xi) and Emperor Yu the Great. These patterns are called "Markings of the Yellow River and Written Signs of the River Luo" (Hetu Luoshu 河圖洛書). The Chinese character for "literature" wen originally means "pattern, mark", latter written with the silk radical . Archeological findings gave proof of a pictorical stage of the Chinese script in shape of clan insignia. on pottery and the first bronze vessels of the Erlitou Culture. 
The earliest traces of a real script are the so-called "oracle bone inscriptions" (jiaguwen
甲骨文) dating from the 13th century BC during the Shang Dynasty. Oracles were written on cattle scapulae or turtle plastrons to divine the future. At the same time, bronze vessels were decorated with texts of enfeoffments, the type of script is called "Bronze Inscriptions" jinwen 金文
For royal edicts and decretes, during the late Zhou (475-221 BC) time there was a new type of script developed that served especially for seals: the Seal Script (zhuanshu
篆書; the Large Seal Script dazhuanti 大篆體 is also called zhoushu 籀書). This type of script is very decorative and is still in use today for personal seals and for calligraphy. Its most famous examples are the Stone Drum Inscriptions (shiguwen 石鼓文). These writing styles were ingraved into bone, the clay mold, into stone, wood, and bamboo, with a metal pen or a bamboo feather. The First Emperor of Qin had conquered all other feudal states of the Zhou period. One measurement of the empire-wide standardization was the creation of the Small Seal Script (xiaozhuanti 小篆體). Meanwhile, new writing instruments and materials had developed, leading to a thoroughly new style of writing, the Chancellery Script (lishu 隸書). It was very common during the Han Dynasty. It is a script shaped by a writing instrument that has probably been in use since the oldest times, but of which we find no traces until the end of the Warring States Period: the brush (bi , said to be invented by General Meng Tian 蒙恬). The Chinese character for "brush" shows a hand holding a writing instrument, on the top indicated with bamboo as material. From the late Zhou (Warring States) time on, wooden or bamboo slips (jian ) served as writing material, the late Warring States time brought up silk (bo ) as writing material. Paper (zhi ) was invented during the Later Han Dynasty (25-220 AD) and presented to the court by Cai Lun 蔡倫. The first paper was made from mulberry bark, hemp, bamboo, different plant fibres, and silk refuses, later from rice straw. 
During the first few centuries AD, the writers and calligraphers developed many writing styles, some of them are named after one particular person that used it, like the calligraphies of Ouyang Xun
歐陽詢 or the Song emperor Huizong 宋徽宗 (r.1101-1126). Block printing was invented during the Tang Dynasty (607-918), moveable letters in the 14th century. 


  Chinese silk embroidery painting art from Suzhou

[Last Modified By Admin, at 2006-01-05 09:00:39]

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