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Oracle Bone Script (甲骨文)

Oracle-bone script (jiaguwen), the earliest known form of systematic Chinese writing, dates from the fourteenth to eleventh century BCE. The sharp beginning and end of each stroke relate to the script's origins in carving divination texts on tortoise shells and on the flat bones of certain animals. These ancient texts were used primarily in predicting future events on behalf of the ruler.

Archaeologists in the early twentieth century discovered and deciphered oracle-bone script, and modern scholars and artists have recently added it to China's tradition of calligraphic arts.

Oracle bone
Oracle bone. View larger.

We are excited to reopen the Freer in October 2017, following a renovation to allow us to better present our art and serve our visitors. The Sackler remains open, with a full lineup of exhibitions and events both in the museum and around DC. For your safety, all visitors will have their bags checked. See the complete list of restricted items and bag sizes.