Wednesday Lunch Talk -- Learning to Write in Anyang: The Beginnings of Chinese Literacy
Presentation by Adam Smith
Wednesday, December 07, 2005
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
The earliest evidence for the regular and sustained practice of writing in China is associated with the well-known Shang site at Anyang, Henan Province, and dates to the last centuries of the second millennium BC. This is one of only three or four places in the world where literacy is likely to have arisen without influence from another literate culture. It is often asserted that this earliest sample of Chinese writing, overwhelmingly dominated by records of divinations, is far from representative of the true extent of Shang writing, which, it is claimed, would have extended to the full apparatus of a literate bureaucracy. I argue that evidence for scribal training at Anyang indicates that the opposite is the case. Divination records were at the core and not the periphery of late Shang literate practice. It was in the diviner's workshop that individuals learnt to write and Chinese literacy began.
Adam Smith is a Ph.D. candidate in the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology (UCLA).
Open to UCLA faculty and students, and others by invitation
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Tel: (310) 825-8683
Sponsor(s): Center for Chinese Studies