Origin of Chinese Characters
Chinese characters have played a significant role in the development of the outstanding culture of the Chinese people. Chinese characters are one kind of the most ancient characters. In the world. there were originally ancient Sumerian and ancient Egyptian letters. However. the two disappeared successively and only Chinese characters remain extant.
Chinese characters. based on pictographs and combining shape. sound and meaning. become a kind of unique block-shape characters with meanings. Chinese characters originated from drawings. Archaeological researchers found many signs carved on earthenware excavated from the Banpo Village in Xi`an City and Jiangzhai Village in Lintong. These marks were carved in the Yangshao Culture Period 6.000 years ago in the primitive society. More than 4.000 years ago. people living in the Tai`an area of Shandong Province also carved some signs on earthenware. Take the character ``µ©`` (dan in Pingyin. which means dawn) for instance: the sun (ÈÕ) rises upward crossing mountains and passing through cloud layers to tell people the morning has approached. It is safe to say that signs on earthenware are the origin of Chinese characters. That is to say. Chinese characters originated from drawings.
The most mature. earliest Chinese characters that have been discovered are Jiaguwen (inscriptions on tortoise shells and animal bones) of the Shang Dynasty more than 3.000 years ago. The inscription on animal bones and tortoise shells look like drawings very much. Up till now. China has unearthed 150.000 pieces of animal bones and tortoise shells and has altogether discovered more than 4.600 non-repeated Chinese characters. among which more than 1.700 have been identified. The inscription on animal bones and tortoise shells has included phrases and simple sentences. providing much knowledge about the Shang Dynasty. Modern Chinese characters total more than 60.000. among which about 3.000 are frequently used characters.