Oracle Bone Calligraphy Exhibition of Xie Chunling

A large number of Chinese writings dating back 3,500 years were discovered in 1899 near the city of Anyang (安陽),where the ancient capital Yin (殷) of the Shang(商)Dynasty (c.1600-1046 BC ) was located. Known as oracle bone inscriptions, the characters were carved onto turtle shells and animal bones to record the events of divination. These oracle bone inscriptions are by far the earliest Chinese characters found with a sophisticated composition system. The stunning discovery and interpretation of these inscriptions has become a significant milestone in the development of both Chinese and, more broadly, human civilization. Buried underground for more than 3,000 years, the form of the characters and the contents of the oracle bone inscriptions have been well preserved, without being tampered or altered. They are the most reliable historical information of the period. More than 100,000 oracle bones have been excavated since 1899. Among the 4,600 distinctive characters confirmed for their uniqueness, 2,350 of them can be established by components (radicals) from regular script while 1,170 have been successfully interpreted and verified in later dictionaries. Now we know that during the Yin Shang Dynasty, the Emperor would have to consult the spirits by conducting a divination with oracle bones prior to undertaking any order of business, and the events of divination and their results would be recorded on the bones. Oracle bone inscriptions reflect people’s devotion to fate in that period, illustrating their belief that Foreword everything that happens in the human world is decided by god, spirits, and ancestors. Therefore, these offering activities were extremely frequent and quite complicated, forming a unique cultural phenomenon. After over 120 years of hard work, we have not only affirmed the time period (1300 BC - 1046 BC) from which the oracle bone inscriptions have originated, but also have a general understanding of the content of the inscriptions. Through these inscriptions, we now understand different aspects of the society during this historical period, such as politics, military, culture, and traditions. The inscriptions also refer to astronomy, the calendar, medicine and so on. Astronomy and the calendar had an early development in Chinese history and are the key components of the Chinese culture. Oracle bone inscriptions already recorded a broad spectrum of astronomical phenomena and calendrical expressions. The calligraphy works in this exhibition consist of two aspects. One is related to the meteorological records on the oracle bones, including wind, thunder, rain, snow, rainbows, haze, and hail, as well as astronomical records of solar and lunar eclipses and the emergence of new stars. The other is related to the calendar, including specific terms for each day as well as for various periods in a day, calendar month, leap month and so on. This art originated from original oracle bone inscriptions, and demonstrates our ancestors’ observation of natural phenomena and their belief of god’s domination. Oracle bone calligraphy is a unique art form recreating the beauty of 2