(1) Early developments 2
# Evolution during the Zhou Dynasty (1) ---characters on bronze utensils
Bronze is the alloy of copper and tin, with the advantages of high hardness and melting point. It was widely used in ancient China. The earliest bronze utensil were made about 5,000 years ago, and the largest one was the Simuwoo Tripod in the Shang Dynasty, with a weight of 875 kg!
Since the late Shang Dynasty, nobles ordered slaves to cast or carve some words on bronze utensils, which was called "the Bronze Inscriptions". The name of owner or his family, big events, virtue of ancestors usually appeared on these utensils.
Research on the Bronze Inscriptions began since about 200 B.C.. 6,000 to 7,000 ancient bronze utensils were found till now and most of them had inscriptions on. Without doubt, they are precious records of the Zhou Dynasty. Among them, the Maogong Tripod had the most inscriptions on: 497 characters totally!
the Maogong Tripod
Compared with the oracle-bone inscriptions, there were much more characters in the Bronze Inscriptions. The number of understandable characters has risen to 2,400 from 1,500. Besides, the characters became more abstract than before.
Later, the Zhou Dynasty declined, and small kingdoms which used to obey the Zhou Dynasty started to strengthen themselves. At the same time, characters slowly developed differently in these kingdoms.
# Evolution during the Zhou Dynasty (2) --- the Warring Kingdoms
Characters were widely used in kingdoms. Carved on pottery utensils and ancient seals, casted on currencies, characters was developing at high speed.
New materials for writing also came out during this period. They were bamboo or wood pieces, and silk. The character "volume" is a pictograph, describing the scene when stringing the bamboo pieces together with threads. People used "writing brush" & ink to write on them. Silk is too expensive to use for writing. So it was only used by nobles.
Characters on bamboo or wood pieces, and silk
Characters in different kingdoms became more and more different. Without a common standard, people wrote characters casually. Many characters were changed in this way and sometimes they were difficult to understand.
After uncountable wars, the number of kingdoms had reduced to seven around 400 B.C.. Click to see the situation.( Click here to see the background information )
We can divide the styles of characters at that time into 5 major systems below:
a. Northern: Cold and well-arranged.
b. Eastern: slender and elegant.
c. Central: a kind of characters, look like tadpoles.
d: Southern: delicate, winding.
Some characters have decorations which look like bird or worm shape.
e: Western: classical and sedate.
The representative work is the Stone-Drum Inscriptions.
# the 1st unification
China was unified for the first time by the Qin Kingdom in 206 B.C.. The leader of the unification was a young king named Ying Zheng. He ascended the throne as "the first emperor", and soon started his ambitious reforms all over the country. The regulations of transportation was unified. All weapons were cast into huge bronze statues. At last, characters were unified to the only style, based on the Western style---the Seal Style.
The features of the Seal Style are:
a. Well arranged; rows and lines are very obvious.
b. Strokes often go round, without angles.
c. All strokes are of the same width.
d. The shape of each character is long and extending smoothly.
This clear style made people feel solemn.
Since then, people all over China have been using the same characters to communicate ideas, though they may have different accents.