Jump dating script navigation Jump to search “Dragon bones” redirects here. China, mainly during the late Shang dynasty.
Diviners would submit questions to deities regarding future weather, crop planting, the fortunes of members of the royal family, military endeavors, and other similar topics. These questions were carved onto the bone or shell in oracle bone script using a sharp tool. The oracle bones bear the earliest known significant corpus of ancient Chinese writing and contain important historical information such as the complete royal genealogy of the Shang dynasty. Wang Yirong, Chinese politician and scholar, was the first to recognize the oracle bones as ancient writing. Chinese medicine practice of grinding up Pleistocene fossils into tonics or poultices. In 1899, an antiques dealer from Shandong Province searching for Chinese bronzes in the area acquired a number of oracle bones from locals, several of which he sold to Wang Yirong, the chancellor of the Imperial Academy in Beijing.
No one can know how many oracle bones, prior to 1899, were ground up by traditional Chinese pharmacies and disappeared into peoples’ stomachs. It is not known how Wang and Liu actually came across these “dragon bones”, but Wang is credited with being the first to recognize their significance. Decades of uncontrolled digs followed to fuel the antiques trade, and many of these pieces eventually entered collections in Europe, the US, Canada and Japan. The first Western collector was the American missionary Frank H.
Only a small number of dealers and collectors knew the location of the source of the oracle bones or visited it until they were found by Canadian missionary James Menzies, the first person to scientifically excavate, study, and decipher them. Hu Houxuan, with its supplement edited by Peng Bangjiong, is the most comprehensive catalogue of oracle bone fragments. The 20 volumes contain reproductions of over 55,000 fragments. A separate work contains transcriptions of the inscriptions into standard characters. The vast majority of the inscribed oracle bones were found at the Yinxu site in modern Anyang, and date to the reigns of the last nine kings of the Shang dynasty. The kings were involved in divination in all periods, but in later periods most divinations were done personally by the king. 60-day cycle of stems and branches, though sometimes the month was also given.