Full Text

Chinese scripts

Subject Linguistics

Place Eastern Asia » China

DOI: 10.1111/b.9780631214816.1999.x


In the long history of Chinese writing a great many script types have evolved ( table 2 ). The most archaic characters recognizably related to the present system of writing were incised on ox and sheep scapulas and tortoise shells for purposes of divination. This angular script, known as oracle-bone script ( jiagu wenzi ), dates from early in the second millennium bce . Inscriptions on bronze vessels of the Shang dynasty (1523-1028 bce ) followed. Some 2,000 different characters with modern counterparts have been identified. As of the eighth century bce the large-seal script ( dazhuan ) is attested in its mature form. It was predominant until the second century bce , when the small-seal script ( xiaozhuan ) made its appearance. The next step in the development brings the Chinese script close to its typographically mature form. The clerical script ( lishu ) of the eastern Han (25-220 ce ) gave rise to three basic types which continue to be used today. They are, respectively, the standard script ( kaishu ), the running script ( xingshu ) and the cursive script ( caoshu ), all in use since about the fourth century ce . In modern times the Chinese script has undergone some modification as a result of the character simplification carried out in the People's Republic of China. Many abbreviated varieties of characters have become the standard forms. Table 2 The Chinese character ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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