The excavations of the foundations of several rammed earth palace at Xin Xu revealed the Shang Dynasty (BC 1766 – BC 1122) was a highly developed slave society.
The most valuable discovery was oracle bones, the evidence of China’s earliest writing system.
Tortoise shells, due to their hardness and longevity, were used for the oracle inscriptions. However, tortoise shells were not the only material. Animal bones were also inscribed.
The inscriptions carved into bones and tortoise shells were questions to the high God Shang Di, lesser gods, and ancestors.
These questions were on issues that concerned the dynasty such as harvests, childbirth, everyday advice, and military campaigns.
Oracle bones, also known as dragon bones, were often ground into powder and used in Chinese medicines, which explains why oracle bones were also a myth for a long time.
What makes the oracle bones important today is the script carved into the shells or bones that are the beginning of China’s written language.
The Chinese writing system is the only language that still uses the same methods used thousands of years ago.
Continued with Part 3 on January 18, 2018, or start with Part 1
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine, Crazy is Normal, Running with the Enemy, and The Redemption of Don Juan Casanova.
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