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Kikkō jūkotsu moji (亀甲獣骨文字, きっこう じゅうこつ もじ, i.e. “oracle bone and tortoise shell script”)

Together with kinbun (金文, きんぶん, i.e. “text on metal”) oracle bone and tortoise shell script (亀甲獣骨文字, きっこうじゅうこつもじ) is the grandfather of all scripts. In short, oracle bone inscriptions are called kōkotsubun (甲骨文, こうこつぶん) in Japanese, which translates to “text (文, ぶん, bun) on shells (甲, こう, kō) and bones (骨, こつ, kotsu)”. In Chinese it is also known as kè wén, i.e., “engraved text” (刻, to engrave, 文, text), although there have been bones found with characters written with a brush, and not carved afterwards.

Kōkotsubun was discovered by accident in 1899 in a small village just outside Anyang (安陽), Henan Province (河南省). To this point, from the approximately 150,000 pieces of bones and shells that were discovered, around 2000 out of total 4700 classified characters have been deciphered. The earliest inscriptions date back to 15th - 16th century B.C during the Shang dynasty (商朝, 1600 – 1046 B.C.). Discovery of the oracle bone script has thrown a new light on the etymology of Chinese characters. More detailed information regarding oracle bone script is to be found here.

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Page last modified on November 04, 2011, at 07:19 AM