Memory of the World

China - Chinese Oracle-Bone Inscriptions

Oracle-bone inscriptions were excavated from Yin Ruins in Anyang City, Henan Province, China. They were records of making divination and praying to gods by late Shang people from 1400 B.C.-1100 B.C.. The materials used for divination were mainly cattle scapulas and tortoise shells, as well as other animal bones. Omens were deciphered from the cracks made by burning bones. The divination involves all aspects of Shang dynasty, such as sacrifices, praying, king’s affairs, weather, harvest, military affairs, coming and going, etc.. Oracle bone inscriptions can be divided into several periods according to their forms and contents, based on which we could reconstruct the real royal genealogy of Shang dynasty, and make research on the important events of royal families and how people lived in Shang time. Oracle bone inscriptions are also the important materials to study the original configuration of Chinese characters and the earliest state of Chinese language grammar. This declaration for Memory of the World is to strengthen the protection and inheritance of these earliest relics of Chinese historical documents. 

Photos: © Institute of History, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences

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