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Archeologists push back origin of Chinese characters by 1,000 years

By Global Times – Xinhua Source:Global Times – Xinhua Published: 2013-7-10 0:28:01

Archeologists in China have confirmed that the inscriptions found on artifacts unearthed in Zhejiang Province represent the earliest record of Chinese characters in history, pushing the origins of the written language back 1,000 years.   

Archeologists and linguistics experts gathered in Pinghu, Zhejiang Province, Saturday to discuss the meaning of the symbols found on pottery pieces and stone vessels that had been unearthed at the Zhuangqiaofen archeological site between 2003 and 2006.

Experts concluded that the symbols represented the earliest known Chinese characters, which could be traced to the Liangzhu civilization, one of China's earliest civilizations dating from the Neolithic Age some 5,000 years ago in today's Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces, China Youth Daily reported Tuesday.

The inscriptions existed some 1,000 years before the oracles, commonly held as the origin of the Chinese language system. The oracles are inscriptions on turtle shells, and date back to the Shang Dynasty (C.1600-1046BC).

Xu Xinmin, a researcher with the Zhejiang Archeological Institute, said that the repetitive pattern of some of these symbols led archeologists to believe that the inscription, just like the oracles, is a primitive version of a hieroglyphic language.

Xu's opinion was echoed by Li Boqian, an archeology professor from Peking University, who said the combination pattern of the symbols shows that people in the Liangzhu civilization had already developed the basic structure of sentences from independent words.

Liu Zhao, an archeologist and linguistics professor from Fudan University, said that once deciphered, the inscription could provide an important insight into social structure in ancient China.

Global Times - Xinhua

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