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Chinese Culture >> Chinese Symbols

History of Chinese Symbols

The Chinese symbols, also known as Chinese characters, are one of the oldest known written symbols in the world. The evolvement of Chinese symbols have been through three stages, they are oracle and Bronze Inscriptions, bamboo Inscriptions and modern Chinese writings.

Oracle Bone and Bronze Inscriptions

The earliest Chinese symbols were carved by the ancient Chinese of the Shang Dynasty (1200-1050 BC) on tortoise shells and ox scapula (shoulder blades), also known as Oracle Inscriptions (Jiaguwen) which were found at the site of the last Shang capital near present-day Anyang, Henan province. On the oracle inscriptions, one finds many pictographs in their primitive picture forms. The pictographs, the earliest forms of Chinese written symbols, already possessed the characteristics of a script. As is well- known, written Chinese is not an alphabetic language, but a script of ideogram.

Another type of early Chinese symbols in its long history of development is Bronze Inscriptions (Jinwen). These are texts either cast into bronze vessels or carved into the surface of an already carved vessel. These vessels became widely used during the Eastern Zhou dynasty (ca. 1150-771 BC) but there are examples from late Shang as well. The ancient bronze inscription may well be regarded as "books in Brozne" which fill important gaps left by the scanty written history of that remote.

Bamboo Inscriptions

The next stage in the history of Chinese symbols was the Bamboo Inscriptions. The practice of writing on Bamboo slips began probably from the Shang Dynasty to the Eastern Han, extending over a period of 1,700 years. Chinese symbols were written with a writing brush and black ink, with one line on each slip. Writing on wood slips was done from top to bottom, with each line comprising from 10 to at most 40 symbols. At that time, a book was formed when all slips bearing all lines of an article were joined together. Many important and famous ancient Chinese books were written on Bamboo slips, such as the Analects of Confucius, Book of Rites and so on. Bamboo books held an important position in Chinese cultural and history. bamboo slips gave way to paper documents after paper was invented and used for writing. Bamboo slips were the earliest form of "books" that carried valuable history records.

Modern Chinese Writings

The two main Chinese writing systems in use today are the traditional and simplified Chinese Symbols. The former is only used in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macao and Chinese speaking communities (except Singapore and Malaysia) outside mainland China, takes its form from standardized character forms dating back to the late Han dynasty. The simplified Chinese symbols in use today are the result of the works moderated by Chinese Government in 1950s. Simplified symbols were created by decreasing the number of strokes and simplifying the forms of a sizable proportion of traditional symbols. Some symbols were simplified by applying regular rules. for example, by replacing all occurrences of a certain component with a simpler variant, but some symbols were simplified irregularly. some simplified symbols are very dissimilar to and unpredictable from traditional counterparts. Finally, many symbols were left untouched by simplification, and are thus identical between the traditional and simplified
Chinese symbols.

About the Author

Lee Lin is a professional translator, he provides translation services from and into Chinese at excellent value. Please visit his website to view free translation Of English Words into Chinese Symbols and find out the Chinese Symbol Meanings you are seeking.