Hi there everyone. I was joking around with a friend not so long ago about making a blog about how traditional Chinese characters are better than simplified characters just to make mainlanders upset. I quickly realized that it was not a bad idea, only not with the goal of upsetting people, but rather educating people. I LOVE traditional characters and I want everyone to see why they are not more difficult than simplified characters, and just how beautiful they are.
So I have created the blog. I have never made a blog before, so please be gentle with me. Please let me know what you think of it so far and any suggestions, constructive criticism, and other comments are very welcome.
Looks like a nice start there. I have a few comments on the contents.
- You might want to be more conservative than the statement “This is the oldest of the Chinese script” (which, btw, needs an -s at the end). I was specifically instructed to avoid that statement when training as a docent at the NPM, and I have been told by a paleographer that there are characters on a very few Shāng bronzes which predate the late Shāng Ānyáng OB (oracle bones); I’ve read the same thing in裘錫圭 Qiú Xīguī (e.g. p.42), although the evidence is extremely fragmentary and some of it is controversial. There are also a few early Shāng pottery inscriptions which are (more clearly than the earliest such symbols) possibly forerunners of the late Shāng OB – I’m referring not to the early, highly controversial Bànpō etc. Neolithic pottery symbols, but to the much later ones at Èrlĭtóu. Many think these are indeed the earliest known ancestors to the OB, while others like Qiú are more skeptical. However, the small number of these pottery graphs limits their importance, in comparison to the oracle bone pieces, which number well over 100,000. So I prefer to say that the OB are the earliest significant corpus of Chinese writing.
Note also that many leading scholars consider the OB script to be a simplified script, contemporary with the more complex characters seen on ritual bronzes of the same period; it is generally assumed that the graphs were simplified due to the difficulty of engraving them on the hard, bony materials on which the OB were written, unlike the soft clay molds from which the bronzes were cast. Furthermore, it is widely believed that the main medium of writing at the time was books of bound wood and bamboo slats just like the ones preserved from later periods, although none have survived from the late Shang; the characters on them would have been written with a brush and may have been more like the complex bronze forms since this medium did not present the same difficulty as the hard bone and shell. Anyway, the main point here is that if you are discussing traditional characters, you have actually begun with an example (the OB) which are likely simplified; and also, when people get into discussions of ‘tradition’, it is pretty clear that there has always been a tradition of simplified forms used along side complex forms. Many of our current ‘traditional’ characters in fact preserve earlier simplified variants; and some of the new ‘simplified’ forms are not new at all, as they in fact revert to earlier simple forms, some of which predate the modern complex ones. Some of these are even more meaningful than the traditional characters they replace (the modern traditional 隊 is a good example; it’s a rebus whose original meaning is 墜, and whose original form resembles 队, showing a man falling from a cliff, although in the OB the man was inverted. The new ‘simplified’ form goes back to the cliff and man semantic elements).
You state “These were carved into bronze and other metals.” Note that most bronze inscriptions were cast, and not carved. I don’t recall seeing carved (engraved) bronze characters from the Shāng and Zhoū periods, although I won’t say there weren’t any, but there were definitely some later, in the Qín such as on weapons from the period, often very hastily and sloppily inscribed. I would say ‘cast or carved’, not just ‘carved’.
I would recommend you distinguish between the terms ‘radical’ and ‘semantic component’ when you write; the word ‘radical’ in the sense of 部首 is only relevant when discussing the component under which a character is indexed in a dictionary. If all you’re doing is decomposing and analyzing compound characters, and if you know that the role a component is playing is to convey meaning, it suffices (and is preferable IMO) to talk about it as a semantic element rather than as a radical.
In case you haven’t read it yet, I strongly recommend the following:
裘錫圭 Qiú Xīguī (2000). Chinese Writing. Translation of 文字學概論 by the late Gilbert L. Mattos (Chairman, Dept. of Asian Studies, Seton Hall University) and Jerry Norman (Professor Emeritus, Asian Languages & Literature Dept., Univ. of Washington). Early China Special Monograph Series No. 4. Berkeley: The Society for the Study of Early China and the Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley. ISBN 1-55729-071-7.
Thank you very much Dragonbones. I have made the necessary changes and I thank you very much for taking the time to help me. I am a learner myself, so I am just recommunicating everything I learn. I’m hoping to go to Taiwan for a year and study Mandarin at 政治大學.
I will definitely be reading 裘錫圭, I have seen it quoted many times on Wikipedia and I think I will enjoy it very much.
Again, thank you very much
Yeah, I probably wrote much of the stuff which quotes him. There’s a version in Chinese too, but I’d recommend starting with the English, as the content itself is already quite a bit to chew on. Have fun!