Mystery: Are these Chinese oracle bones inscriptions carved on a tortoise shells?

normal_dsc09558 Mystery: Are these Chinese oracle bones inscriptions carved on a tortoise shells?

Interesting recent find… The question is “what is it?” Are these oracle bones ( 甲骨 jiǎgǔ) ? And if so, why is  it not cracked? Or was this particular one simply used for practicing carving inscriptions? Or maybe even record keeping? Is this pictographs indeed an example of jiăgŭwén (oracle script) or is it seal script (小篆 Xiaozhuan /大篆Dazhuan)? What about clerical script (Li shu 隸書)?

normal_dsc09555-300x199 Mystery: Are these Chinese oracle bones inscriptions carved on a tortoise shells?

According to the I-Ching, tortoise divination is one of the best method for making sense of the events. So, the very symbolism of the tortoise shell itself, would lead credence to the idea that this was used for some form of divination. Most popular and known for during the Shang dynasty, documented cases show this practice continued up until the Qing Dynasty though less frequently.

So are these oracle bones? Actually they are not. This tortoise shell dates back to the Ming Dynasty and was used as a kind of percussion instrument much like a wooden bell. Likely in a temple for religious rights. So while not oracle bones, they are still quite fascinating.

If anyone wants to dig-in to what it says, Harmen Mesker’s website has some fascinating Chinese character analysis topics.

One Reply to “Mystery: Are these Chinese oracle bones inscriptions carved on a tortoise shells?”

  1. FYI: for this interested, this was actually used in a temple for chanting… striking the shell produces a clip sort of sound that is repeated over and over again…

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