above photo of the inscription on a turtle shell
was taken at the Xian Chinese Calligraphy Museum
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, 4 to 5 thousand characters
have been discovered but only about 1500 have been 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 Shang
朝 shāng cháo
(1766 BCE to 1022 BCE). This discovery makes the scripts the
earliest Chinese characters known to scholars, researchers and
linguists. To some, 甲骨文字jiǎ gǔ
wén zì is the origin of the Chinese
language. Translation 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jiǎ gǔ wén zì.
photo was taken at
the Xian Chinese Calligraphy Museum
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