Ever closely looked at a Chinese character? Many things may have run through your mind. Amazement that one billion people could have managed to learn and read that script. Possibly you may have wondered about the length of time it takes to study the Chinese characters. And maybe, just maybe, you may have become curious about the origin and creation of Chinese characters.
c. 12765- 1122 B.C.
Long ago the Chinese used to inscribe descriptions and questions from their daily life onto turtle shells and then burn them. The way they burned and cracked dictated what course the person was supposed to take. Because of this method, we have many records of daily life during the Shang dynasty. This was also China’s first foray into the creation of Chinese characters. While the turtle shells/oracle bones provided a source of divining the right choice for ancient Chinese, it also made for an excellent record of the development and creation of Chinese characters.
c. 1122-249 B.C.
During the Bronze age, the people of the Zhou dynasty would carve Chinese characters onto the vessels and bronze vases they used in their everyday. The Zhou dynasty is also the time period that many dynasties have looked back upon for guidance. This is where the characters began to be used by more people.
c. 221-206 B.C.
It was during this time period that small seal characters began to be developed. The first emperor of the Qing dynasty decided that characters need to be standardized. Going from one are to another in China, they set about creating a standard set of Chinese characters for all members of the nation to use. This has had a profound effect on the development of a “one China” ideology. Although a man from Xinjiang province and a man from Fujian province may never understand what another says, they can read the characters the other writes. Although the dialects and language transformed over time, the characters remained the same because of the standardization done by the Zhou dynasty.
25 A.D.– 1950
Since the Eastern Han Dynasty, Chinese characters have been written in the traditional style format. The Eastern Han Dynasty took the very straight clerical style characters of the Zhou dynasty and made them easier to write. In Hong Kong, Taiwan, and to an extent in Japan, this is still the same kind of characters that are written today.
Chinese Characters since 1950
Currently, China has adopted a set of simpler characters. They realized that many people in China were illiterate. In order to make the characters more accessible to the masses, they simplified them and removed unnecessary brush strokes. These are currently the characters used by the People’s Republic of China. To an extent, readers in Hong Kong and Taiwan can also read these characters since they are accustomed to reading Chinese news.
Interested? Read more about the creation of Chinese Characters.
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