Talk:Oracle bone script

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Yin / Shang Distinction[edit]

I've noticed the latest anonymous edits made to differentiate the Late Shang from the Yin. What's the standard here? For my part I've always referred to them as Late Shang. Elijahmeeks 17:36, 5 April 2006 (UTC)

None of the many modern scholars I've read has distinguished the Shang dynasty in general from the name Yin; none of them uses the term Yin as a 'period' distinct from the whole dynasty, and certainly none of them refers to an "Yin dynasty" spanning *only* the late Shang dynasty period. As far as I can recall, all of them now use only the term "Shang dynasty" for the dynasty. Yin was the name of the last capital, and is generally reserved for that purpose alone. The phrasing now on the page, "The small majority date to the Shāng Dynasty (from Zhengzhou), around the 16th to 14th centuries BC and vast majority date to the Yin Dynasty (from Anyang), around 13th to 11th centuries" is objectionable for these reasons. Furthermore, I don't think 'small majority' is good English. I propose we make "Shang Dynasty" the standard reference to the dynasty as a whole, and we can introduce the term Yin once as the name of the last capital, and mention (once only) that from this comes a general synonym for the Shang dynasty. We should then clean out all the other references to Yin, and revert any anonymous edits which don't look right to us. Note to anon editors: please explain your changes on this discussion page and sign by adding four tildes (~)! Thanks! Dragonbones 01:30, 6 April 2006 (UTC)
They did have a distinction between Yin and Shang on the historial reference, I believe the Art of war did mentioned about the Yin Dynasty. I remembered reading other modern scholars distinguished the late Shang dynasty in general from the name Yin. As far as I can recall, all of them now use not only the term "Shang dynasty" for the dynasty. Yin was the name of the last capital, and is generally reserved for that purpose alone. 08:45, 6 April 2006 (UTC)
Hmm, I'll have another look at my sources. I think I phrased the above badly, though. Let me try again. I've seen Yin as a general synonym for the Shang Dynasty, especially in historical Chinese references, and not commonly by scholars in the areas I read on. I've see Yin as a reference to the period in the late Shang dynasty when the capital was at Yin, generally by more modern scholars in the areas I read on, and certainly not appending the word 'dynasty' to this, but rather in phrases like "the Yin period". That is, I'm sure there's no "Yin dynasty" unless it refers to exactly the same thing as the "Shang dynasty", although the term "Yin period" could well refer to the "late Shang dynasty". Dragonbones 15:52, 6 April 2006 (UTC)
Greeting -- Actually I did seen Yin used as a general synonym for the Shang Dynasty, especially the late Shang, and commonly used by scholars in the areas I read on. In fact, they did appending the word 'dynasty' to this, such as Yin Chao, but rather not in phrases like "the Yin period" or something like that. So it doesn't matter whether there's a "Yin dynasty" or not, unless it refers to exactly the same thing as the "Late Shang dynasty". Since the term "Yin period" could well refer to the "late Shang dynasty. I'm, however, fine with the using of late Shang instead of Yin. 16:12, 6 April 2006 (UTC)

rename page to Oracle Bone Script ?[edit]

This page should be named Oracle Bone Script; I can't recall any academic calling it 'oracle script'. Dragonbones 13:44, 22 March 2006 (UTC)

Why is this pinyin so ugly?[edit]

In line 1 of the Oracle bone script page, "Oracle bone script (Chinese: 甲骨文; Hanyu Pinyin: jiǎgǔwén; literally "shell bone writing")", the pinyin "jiaguwen" looks very ugly on my screen, with odd spacing and an odd font. What gives? I tried replacing it but to no avail.Dragonbones 08:57, 31 March 2006 (UTC)

I don't think so, pinyin is always ugly if you are not Chinese. Honeyhuyue 15:07, 3 April 2010 (UTC)
It shows up when over-zealous editors and template script writers try to force their ugly transliteration fonts on us. That or your default font has bad character enabling (which is of course exactly the situation that leads to the editors and script writers trying to force their fonts back on us). — LlywelynII 05:16, 3 October 2011 (UTC)

not the earliest confirmed writing[edit]

I would like to caution fellow editors against confusing the following: 1) signs or symbols found on early artifacts but for which there is not scholarly consensus as to whether they constitute writing. The Neolithic pottery graphs in China fall into this category. (I follow Qiu here; see also Woon) 2) isolated graphs which are close enough in appearance and in time to the writing system of the Shang, but which predate the Anyang oracle bones. There are at least one or two instances like this (see Qiu), so that it is not accurate to say that the Anyang OB are 'the earliest writing' in China. Keeping both of these in mind, we can see that despite the presence of the Neolithic graphs, we cannot safely conclude that they are the earliest 'writing'; and we can also see that the only safe conclusion on the oracle bones of Anyang is that they are the earliest 'significant corpus' of Chinese writing. I have been careful to incorporate this on the various relevant Wiki pages.Dragonbones

Very well put and absolutely correct. Elijahmeeks 18:00, 2 April 2006 (UTC)

The dates for the Yin (Anyang) period[edit]

The dates for the Yin (Anyang) period and thus for the majority of the oracle bone and shell inscriptions should be from the 14th to the 11th centuries BC, not 13th to the 11th centuries BC. See for example Jacques Gernet, A History of Chinese Civilisation, page 41 and page 688. I have made the relevant change. - cyl

  • Qiu Xigui also cites 14th to 11th.Dragonbones (talk) 06:23, 23 May 2008 (UTC)
The dates for these two things are not the same. The oracle bones and other finds at the Anyang site date from some point in the reign of Wu Ding, while the traditional account has the change of capital occurring under Pan Geng. Kanguole 11:00, 6 January 2012 (UTC)

merge Oracle bone[edit]

I don't see any reason to have a separate article for Oracle bone. Their interlanguage links are basically same. --Neo-Jay (talk) 02:36, 16 March 2008 (UTC)

Support. The two articles basically talk about the same topic. Oracle bone focuses more on their significance and history while Oracle bone script focuses more on the writing that appears on them. There's no reason they can't be mentioned in the same article. Even the Chinese version is presented as a single article. —Umofomia (talk) 07:28, 16 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose the articles should just be made more distinct, as one is about a writing system, and the other is about objects and their use. This should be separate. (talk) 08:56, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose. I agree with the above contributor. They should be kept separate. Oracle Bone is a general article about the objects and their discovery. The Oracle Bone Script article deals with textual information derived from the inscriptions such as character form, meaning, syntax, grammar and language related content (or ought to if someone were to write about it more). —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dylanwhs (talkcontribs) 23:41, 31 March 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose - You wouldn't merge cuneiform script with clay tablets. --PalaceGuard008 (Talk) 05:01, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose. Plus, the written language system of the Oracle Bone Script is a separate issue compared to oracle bones that were used for a specific purpose in divination ceremonies by the Shang kings and priests.--Pericles of AthensTalk 15:20, 5 April 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose The script is distinct from the use of bones for divination, which may or may not have inscriptions. If the two articles seem basically similar then it is a fault with at least one of the articles. The two articles should be improved not merged. Moreover, as Oracle Bone script is ready to be proposed for encoding in Unicode it is important that there is a separate article that discusses the script.BabelStone (talk) 08:53, 22 May 2008 (UTC)
  • Oppose. It is a fault with both articles; the oracle bones article needs to be just about their discovery and use in divination, with only the briefest mention of the script on them and a link to that article; the oracle bone script page needs to be just about the script on them, as Dylanwhs states. There's a lot of development needed on the script page. In the next several years I'm sure I will contribute to both when I get time; in the meantime if someone can do the paring down of each of them, moving info to the other page as needed, it would be wonderful. Dragonbones (talk) 11:28, 22 May 2008 (UTC)
  • I'm working on the cleanup now.Dragonbones (talk) 06:09, 23 May 2008 (UTC)
  • Done. I've removed content about the bone types so the article is more about just the script. Due to this and the overwhelming consensus opposing the suggestion to merge, I suggest removing the tag for the proposal.Dragonbones (talk) 08:25, 23 May 2008 (UTC)
Great work, Dragonbones! I second that; the majority of people are only going to oppose this merger.--Pericles of AthensTalk 08:45, 23 May 2008 (UTC)
Ok, that seems like consensus to me, so I'm removing the tag for now. I'm still working on both pages, btw; I'll bear in mind their separation.Dragonbones (talk) 14:56, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

Pre-Anyang Oracle Bones[edit]

The unreferenced citation of Zhengzhou oracle bones dating to earlier in the dynasty was recently removed, which is quite reasonable given the lack of citations and lack of detail or links. On the other hand, we do need to dig up the information on the pre-Anyang inscribed bones, no? So that serves as a good prod for me, cheers! Here is what Qiu Xigui 2000 p. 41 has: "Two pieces of bone bearing graphs were also discovered at Erligang (Kexue Press 1959:38, also Fig. 30). One of them is engraved with only one graph, namely, the character "ㄓ" (the character "ㄓ" appears in late period Shang oracle bone inscriptions) and was unearthed from a pre-Shang layer. The other piece is of uncertain provenance and bears ten or more characters; the graphic forms on it are similar to those found in late Shang oracle bone script, but their pattern of usage is rather unique."

Personally, I think that a single graph from a pre-Shang layer, when there is no other evidence of pre-Shang OB, implies disturbance of the layers just as readily as it implies pre-Shang OB writing, but of course the latter is possible too, given that there are textual references to Xia writing. Whatever we do with this kind of info, I do hope we remain cautious and yet fair in its presentation.Dragonbones (talk) 14:51, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

Yes, taking caution is certainly necessary. Good job finding those references. It will, however, take a multifaceted scholarly view to gain a full picture about the earliest evidence of Oracle Bone Script. If you could find a scholar who is of the strong opinion that there was a disturbance of the layers during the dig, then including that with the information you quoted above would be perfect.--Pericles of AthensTalk 15:29, 25 May 2008 (UTC)
Good point; I wasn't planning on incorporating my own suspicion without backup. Actually Qiu is is razor sharp and full of healthy skepticism, and he didn't mention disturbance. But it's hard to find good sources on this kind of stuff -- including discussions of why that layer is thought to be pre-Shang, and what, then, that layer IS. There are plenty of scholars who believe there MUST HAVE BEEN such writing in early Shang times or even those immediately preceding the early Shang, so perhaps I shouldn't be quite so skeptical, LOL. Anyway, I've found some more references to those two bones now, in Keightley and Woon, so it's off to the Academia Sinica library again. Woohoo! Does anyone else have these books? They're quite worthwhile!Dragonbones (talk) 02:16, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

Discussion of Example Characters[edit]

The 'mourning' character which is given as an example is DEFINITELY not an oracle bone graph so I am removing it. First, I looked up sang1 喪 in my oracle bones book by Zhao Cheng and found (p. 334) 桑 being used as a loan to mean mourn, but the form is quite different from the example given on the OBS page. I checked another OB dictionary and got the same result so did some searching, and suspect that someone built a CGI/SVG based on Richard Sears's bronze exemplar b01725 but then uploaded it incorrectly as an oracle bone graph (if so, it is an error by the CGI/SVG builder/uploader, and I assume that the linkage to this page was thus an innocent mistake). Not only is it not OB, it is not even representative W. Zhou bronze! it's a variant form AFAIK. The typical OB to mid Zhou forms have branching tree images with 3 to 6 口 added, not 止 added, and the bottom is normally a triple root. Here is a better facsimile of 合集1083 oracle bone graph of sang1 'mourn' and 'mulberry': As for the incorrect example on the page now, after a search of bronze archives, I have found the source: it is from the 小臣鼎(昜鼎) vessel, AcSin catalogue number 02678 西周中期 Middle Western Zhou bronze. I would reproduce the rubbing here for you but don't have permission, sorry. If someone has time to build some SVG please be sure to get a real OB rubbing or photo to base it on. Thanks!Dragonbones (talk) 15:06, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

Well, I'm glad that I brought the picture of the character to light, because it has been proven as a fraud. Nice catch, Dragonbones. It's good to know that there is a professional at work.--Pericles of AthensTalk 16:37, 26 May 2008 (UTC)

Pinyin != English[edit]

To the editors defacing mainspace articles with pinyin: kindly knock it off.

English does not include pinyin tones and transliterated tonal Chinese text shows up in italics. Names are written without tones, so if it's important to you include the Chinese characters alongside the English transcription.

Issues like Zhou and Shang are non-starters as they're already (toneless) English words. (cf. WP:ENGLISH, WP:COMMONNAME, WP:NC-ZH#Characters, WP:MOS-ZH#Tones, &c... &c...) — LlywelynII 05:24, 3 October 2011 (UTC)

Language of the Shang[edit]

A couple of months ago a paragraph was added about Benedict and Nishida's suggestion (revived by DeLancey) that the Shang spoke a non-Sino-Tibetan language, but their script was taken over by the ST-speaking Zhou. This isn't widely accepted, and I'm not sure it should be included, but if it is we should present it accurately, rather than trying to water it down.

Even further out of the mainstream is Beckwith's theory of an Indo-European basis for Chinese—as far as I can tell it isn't considered a possibility by anyone else (though it's widely accepted that some Old Chinese words were borrowed from IE). The reviews of Beckwith's book are particularly critical of his linguistic proposals:

I suggest it should be removed as fringe. Similarly, although there has been a long-standing debate about whether the Chinese invention of writing was completely independent of the much earlier Middle-Eastern development, Beckwith's suggested IE transmission of the idea of writing seems farfetched, given that the Indo-Europeans in the area had no writing at that time. Kanguole 01:48, 2 January 2015 (UTC)

A number of the Beckwith-pushing edits came from a new account, and part of me wondered if one of Beckwith's students had joined WP just to push his ideas. I personally believe there is more to the Ancient China – Indo-European connection than we are aware of, but I'm not convinced it's as Beckwith describes it, and in any case you are of course correct that his views are fringe ones.  White Whirlwind  咨  08:39, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
Beckwith's linguistic ideas about Sino-Indo-European are decidedly fringe among 'Indo-Europeanists and Sinologists' as Jones-Bley describes. I also do not believe it belongs in this article in particular, because Beckwith's ideas are not drawn from the oracle bone script but from his own reconstructions and analyses of Sino-Tibetan languages. It belongs, to this end, in Sino-Tibetan/Sinitic as it is a larger argument about Sinitic linguistics as opposed to the script. But then again, the same goes for Benedict. Both of these scholars are not oracle bone experts. I'm not sure about Nishida. You may also want to take a look at Shang Dynasty, in which Beckwith's idle speculation about Indo-Europeans founding the Shang is, in my opinion, given undue weight, especially since even Beckwith himself spends no great effort arguing it. Lathdrinor (talk) 17:46, 2 January 2015 (UTC)
I don't think that Beckwith's theory of an IE origin for Chinese belongs anywhere in WP, because no scholar seems to take it seriously.
Benedict made a brief remark (Conspectus, p. 197), without any supporting evidence except the differences between Chinese and most ST languages. Nishida made an argument based on the language of the oracle bone inscriptions. Kanguole 01:55, 3 January 2015 (UTC)