Oracle bones provide a glimpse into history

By Lin Qi | China Daily | Updated: 2022-12-12 06:24
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Oracle bone found at the Yinxu site. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Feng Shi, a researcher of the Institute of Archaeology affiliated to the CASS, says so far about 150,000 oracle bones have been found and more than 4,000 characters have been recognized, reflecting the many dimensions of the political and social lives of the Shang Dynasty.

He says the discovery of oracle bones and inscriptions has "enriched the content of the Yin culture and people's understanding of the Shang civilization" and is of significance to the study of Chinese writing as "a mature, full-fledged system".

Song Zhenhao, one of the most prominent scholars in the study of oracle bones and a researcher at the CASS, says the script emphasizes the respect for ancestors and family cohesion and other core Chinese values that have been passed on for generations until today.

After the Yinxu site was identified as one where oracle bones were unearthed in 1908, the objects and other artifacts found at the site, such as bronze and jade pieces, also became the target of international buyers, and were transported overseas in large quantities.

Tang Jigen, a leading archaeologist specializing in Shang history and a chair professor at the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, Guangdong province, has throughout the years read through artifact catalogs and visited museums abroad. He says, roughly calculated, there are about 50,000 artifacts from the Yinxu site outside the country, and oracle bones account for the majority of such items. The oracle bones have been found in some 14 countries besides China, Song says.

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