Evolution of Chinese Characters

Evolution of Chinese Characters

It has taken a long process for Chinese characters to evolve from Jiaguwen (inscription on tortoise shells and animal bones) to the characters we use today.


Jiaguwen of the Shang Dynasty (c.1765-1122BC) is a kind of Chinese characters similar to drawings.


In the Shang Dynasty and Western Zhou Dynasty (1121-771BC). there was also one kind of inscription on bronze ware. which was called Zhongdingwen. The inscription on bronze ware also looks like drawings. After the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-207BC) unified China. he unified Chinese characters and formed Xiaozhuan (lesser seal script). which is a very beautiful style of characters.


Since it was very time-consuming to write Xiaozhuan. people in the Qin Dynasty further improved the characters and created a new style Lishu (official script). In the Han Dynasty (206BC-8AD). Lishu with a new style became the main general typeface. The official script broke away from the pictographic characteristic of ancient Chinese characters and laid some foundation for the emergence of Kaishu (regular script).


Kaishu came into being in the late years of the Han Dynasty and was formed based on Lishu. After Kaishu appeared. the block-shape Chinese characters were finalized. Kaishu has been used from then on till today. and has become a standard calligraphy in general use for the longest time.


In addition. when Lishu was in general use. there was another type of calligraphy Caoshu (grass script); after that there emerged Xingshu (running script).