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Oracle Bones
甲骨文 jiǎ gǔ wén

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the above photo of the inscription on a turtle shell
was taken at the Xian Chinese Calligraphy Museum

Literally translated 甲骨文 jiǎ gǔ wén means turtle bone scripts. As the name suggests, these are turtle shells and animal bones inscribed with characters. To date, more than 5 thousand characters have been discovered. Although more than a thousand have been interpreted and understood, many more have yet to be deciphered.

The word "oracle" in the translation tells us that the inscriptions were derived from divine messages. In other words, these were messages from the gods. Thus,
甲骨文 jiǎ gǔ wén is also known as "Dragon Bones".

Oracle bones inscriptions were used during the 殷 Yin period and
Shang Dynasty 商朝 (1766 BCE to 1022 BCE). These are the earliest Chinese characters/scripts known to scholars, researchers and linguists. To many, 甲骨文字 jiǎ gǔ wén zì is the origin of the Chinese language. Others  opine that inscriptions on bronze (金文) play a no less significant role. Translation or interpretation of some of the script provides us with a better understanding of the political and economic situation of the Shang Dynasty.

*Note: The inscriptions are normally done on turtle plastrons (underbelly) and ox scapulae (shoulder blade).
 
The photo below shows examples of oracle bone inscriptions 甲骨文字.

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the above photo was taken at
the Xian Chinese Calligraphy Museum

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