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Ancient Chinese Calligraphy

The study of ancient Chinese calligraphy is a very complex study that is rich in Chinesehistory. The earliest variant of Chinese calligraphy is referred to as Oracle Bone Script. Oracle Bone Script is the art of inscribing characters or symbols into Oracle Bones. Oracle bones are small animal bones or turtle shells used in during the Bronze Age in China for divination. The earliest form of Oracle Bone Script dates back to the Shang dynasty. It was during this time period that symbols began to be standardized. The Oracle Bone Script is the direct ancestry of modern Chinese writing.

In its infancy, Oracle Bone Script writing was overly simple pictographs. Most of the symbols were very linear. This linear style of writing was due to the difficulty of inscribing circular or round shapes into bone. As pottery and bronze became more prevalent toward the middle and late period of the Shang dynasty, the symbols began to evolve. The evolution began with the writing of symbols onto pottery with brush and ink. As the use of bronze became popular, symbols were carved into wet clay. Once this clay was cured, it was used as bronze casting.

Ancient Chinese Calligraphy

By the end of the Shang dynasty, Oracle Bone Script writing was considered a mature manuscript language. The writing continued to evolve through the Zhou and Han periods. The evolution is largely attributed to the medium that was used during these periods. Ancient Chinese Calligraphy began with incisions on bone, later were carved into clay castings, and finally being painted onto bamboo books. It was the introduction of bamboo books that had the biggest influence on the evolution of Chinese writing.

Bamboo books are long thin slats of bamboo. The slats were hung vertically, and then writing was painted on with brush and ink.  The brush and ink allowed for more flowing characters. It was these flowing characters that eventually matured into the modern Chinese manuscript. Because modern Chinese manuscript can be traced back to the late Shang dynasty, it is considered the oldest language still in used today.

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