Oracle Bones and Traditional China

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Essay Oracle Bones and Traditional China

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This paper discusses the role of oracle bones, the earliest form of Chinese writing, as an important source for understanding the development of written Chinese and the Shang society.

This paper explains that, in the religion of the Shang civilization, which was based on the worship of ancestral spirits and Shang Di, the supreme God, important decisions were made in the ancestral temple through divination by the oracle bones. The author points out that oracle bones also were used to record astronomical events. The paper states that the character ‘yue’ appears quite often in the oracle bone inscriptions as a pictograph of one range of mountains above another and is the object of sacrifices.
“The exact political status of the Huanbei Shang City is unknown, however, the walled city is probably one of the Shang capitals due to its huge size and geographic location. From traditional accounts, it was believed that the 19th king, Pan Geng, moved the capital to Yin, however, the oracle bone inscriptions from Yinxu only details the period from the reign of the 22nd king, Wu Ding to the 30th and last king of the Shang dynasty, Xin. Therefore, Yinxu probably did not become the capital until the reign of Wu Ding and Huanbei most likely was the capital of Pan Geng and the two succeeding kings. Moreover, inscribed oracle bones discovered in the area have enabled researchers to reconstruct the Shang royal genealogy. For nearly a century now, scholars have been reading the oracle bones to detail Chinese history.”

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