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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.

The Freer|Sackler is closed for renovation and reinstallation. The popular exhibition Turquoise Mountain: Artists Transforming Afghanistan is still on view in the International Gallery. (Enter through the Ripley Center.) Join us for our reopening celebration on October 14–15, 2017.