September 16, 2008


The earliest Chinese characters were pictograms etched into bone fragments sometime before 1700 B.C.E. These beautiful characters, known as Jiaguwen or Oracle Bone Script, were inspired by nature and usually resembled the thing they were meant to represent. During the Shang Dynasty (c. 1750-1040 B.C.E.), a second form of the Chinese language was developed for inscribing historic deeds on bronze vessels; not surprisingly this was called Bronze Vessel Script (Jinwen). These were still reminiscent of natural forms, but they had evolved into ideograms that could represent abstract ideas. From these roots, Chinese script went through several more main stages of development, some designed to be easy to read, others to be purely an art form; the common thread being the beauty and grace of the characters as they grew more and more refined (Bo, 2002). Possibly because of their origin as pictograms, Chinese calligraphy has always been considered an art form in its own right, and thus the handwriting is a key measure of a manuscript’s attractiveness and value.

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