April 12, 2006:

[achtung! kunst] *archaeology* : Pottery offers clues to origin of Chinese characters

X-post from Tim 't Hart's EastAsianArch list.
With kind permission.


Pottery offers clues to origin of Chinese characters

www.chinaview.cn 2006-03-22 21:10:18

HEFEI, March 22 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists claim that pottery
utensils dating back 7,000 years ago which bear inscriptions of various
symbols are probably one of the origins of Chinese characters.

They made the conclusion on the basis of several years' study into the
symbols carved on over 600 pottery ware items unearthed from the New
Stone Age site in Shuangdun village, Xiaobengbu town of Bengbu, a city
in East China's Anhui Province.

The symbols include rivers, animals and plants, and activities such as
hunting, fishing and arable farming, as well as symbols recording
events, said Han Xuhang, a research fellow with the Anhui Provincial
Archaeological Research Institute.

The pottery mainly includes bowls and cups, with all the symbols carved
on the bottom or on hidden parts of the pottery. "It is obvious that
these symbols were not used to decorate the pottery utensils but had a
special meaning and purpose," said Xu Dali, an associate research fellow
with the Bengbu City Museum.

Xu said the symbols are carved in pairs and also in groups, which
express comparatively complete meanings and show the characteristics of
sentences and paragraphs.

Similar symbols were also discovered in other places nearby, which shows
that these symbols were recognized and used in a certain region, said Xu.

Many of the symbols are similar to the inscriptions on bones or tortoise
shells of the Shang Dynasty (1766-1122 BC) and many are still conserved
in characters used by ethnic groups today, said Xu.

Li Boqian, head of the ancient civilization research center of Beijing
University, said that the origin of characters has a long process of

The period from 9,000 years to 4,000 years ago was the origin and
initial development period of Chinese characters, and the period from
4,000 years ago to 221 BC was the time when characters developed towards
maturity, which was followed by a period of wide use of characters after
Qinshihuang, China's first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (211-207 BC).

These notional symbols are an important link in the development of
Chinese characters and could be one of the origins of Chinese
characters, said Li.

The discovery of so many symbols at Shuangdun ruins is rarely seen in
the research into ancient civilizations and "it gives us great hope of
finding more important archaeological discoveries," said Li Xueqin,
chairman of the China Pre-Qin Dynasty Historiography Society.

The discovery not only provides important clues about the origin of
Chinese characters, but also an opportunity to review the existing
theory on the origin of Chinese characters, said Li, who is also a
professor with Qinghua University.

Covering 12,000 sq m, the Shuangdun ruins were first discovered in 1985
and excavations were made on an area of 375 square meters from 1986 to
1992. The ruins were regarded as the earliest New Stone Age site in the
area along the middle reaches of the Huaihe River, the third largest
river in China.

The Yellow River and the Yangtze River valleys have been regarded as the
cradles of Chinese civilization. Discovery of the Shuangdun ruins shows
that the Huaihe River valley also has its own independent cultural
system and is one of the birthplaces of Chinese civilization, Li said.




with kind regards,

Matthias Arnold (Art-Eastasia list)



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