Friday, July 1, 2011
Bamboo and Wood Slips 竹简与木简
The small-seal script is said to be the first standardised Chinese writing. It also represents the last stage of old Chinese writing. A new writing script known as the clerical script began to change into the standard script (kaishu) during the latter part of the Han dynasty, and in that form became dominant with the advent of printing technology in the late Tang and early Song dynasties.
The early form of clerical script was written on bamboo and wood slips, which are called jian in Chinese, the earliest form of books in China.
The practice of writing on these slips began probably during the Shang Dynasty (l6th -l1th century BC) and lasted till the Eastern Han (AD 25-220), extending over a period of 1,600 -1,700 years.
The Records of the Grand Historian, the first monumental general history written by the great historian Sima Qian(145 or 135 BC – 86 BC), consisting of 520,000 characters in 130 chapters and covering a period of 3,000 years from the legendary Yellow Emperor to Emperor Wudi of the Han, was written on bamboo slips. So were other well-known works of ancient China, including the Book of Songs (the earliest Chinese anthology of poems and songs from 11th century to about 600 B. C.) and Jiuzhang Suanshu (Mathematics in Nine Chapters completed in the 1st century AD., the earliest book on mathematics in China).
Excavations in 1972 in an ancient tomb of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 25) at Yinque Mountain, Linyi, a Shandong Province, brought to light 4,924 bamboo slips. They turned out to be hand-written, though incomplete, copies of two of China's earliest books on military strategy and tactics: The Art of War by Sun Zi and The Art of War by Sun Bin. The latter had been missing for at least 1,400 years.
Heavy and clumsy as they were, the ancient books of bamboo and wood played an important part in the dissemination of knowledges in various fields.