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25 January 2009
Chinese inscriptions 1000 years older than other previously found?

Professor Liu Fengjun, doctoral supervisor in art and archaeology at Shandong University (China), has declared his recent discovery of Changle bone inscriptions in Weifang city of the country's Shandong Province. Liu believes that the markings on Changle bones represent some kind of original characters of Chinese language approximately 1000 years older than those found in Yinxu. Yinxu is a world-famous site in China for its unearthed oracle bone inscriptions originated in Shang Dynasty (1,600 - 1,046 BCE), which is generally recognized as the earliest record of Chinese language. Hence, the discovery of Changle bone inscriptions may have far-reaching implications.
     Changle is thought to contain an ancient site of the Longshan Culture (about 2,800 - 2,300 BCE). On top of the 100-odd pieces of the said Changle bones, people also have excavated some bone knives, bone stabbers, pieces of black earthenware and pieces of an ancient cooking vessel, all of which are typical of Longshan Culture.
     Professor Liu believes that the signs on the Changle bones are some records of the important events in Dongyi people's life. The Dongyi people was the most developed civilization in ancient China before they were conquered by Xia Dynasty (2,070 - 1,600 BCE). Changle bone inscriptions, Professor Liu explains, preserve some information about hunting, totem, and harvests of the Dongyi people. There are quite a few signs of animals and birds. Signs of dears, elephants, buffalos and birds are common on Changle Bones.
     Professor Liu thinks that Changle bone inscriptions are closely related to the Yinxu Oracle Bone Inscriptions of Shang Dynasty. Having compared Yinxu oracle bone inscriptions with Changle bone inscriptions, Professor Liu finds that some characters of the two kinds of inscriptions are quite similar. Dragon and Phoenix are vital totems and characters in Chinese culture and language: the two characters can be easily found in both Yinxu and Changle bone inscriptions, and they look nearly the same. The only difference is that Dragon and Phoenix in Changle bone inscriptions are more primitive.
     Many experts agree with Liu's theories and are thrilled by the possibility of rewriting the history of ancient Chinese characters as a result of the excavation of Changle bone inscriptions. However, other experts have a different opinion, and are convinced that the engraved marks on the bones are left by worms or tree roots. Professor Liu remarks that he needs more evidence to support his conclusion.

Source: Dr. Qianli Xing, Art Institute of Shandong University (23 January 2009)

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