ROCK ART AND THE BEGINNING OF WRITING IN CHINA
Rock art, a historical record by hunters of the Paleolithic Age unto tribesmen of modern times, documented human actives over the long years. Their rich contents reveals the social practices, philosophies, religions, psychology and aesthetic tendencies of the early man.
Heishan engravings, Ganshu
Originally, before the invention of writing, man used many methods to help memory, to express ideals and to exchange opinions. Among these methods, to keep records by pictures were the most important one. When man drew images to record something and to express certain wishes, then rock art was appeared. Rock art is one of the ways used to keep records by pictures in prehistoric times.
In China's rock art, as far as I know, the rock painting of village life in Cangyuan, Yunnan, may recorded a plundering warfare. The Zuojisng rock paintings, Guangxi, were made as a memorandum of the ritual meetings. The engraving of Hongshituoquan, Xinjiang, narrated herding life of northern grassland in China, and Heishan engravings represent hunting and dancing, perhaps pray for a good season of hunting.
"The Parents of Writing" an inscription beside engraving in Yinshan, Inner Mongolia
Keeping record by picture exert a tremendous influence for the invention of writing, as picture writing appeared. Then, the picture writing evolved into pictograph. The trace of this evolution is very clear in Chinese writing.
In Yinshan, Inner Mongolia, we find an inscription beside some engravings that says, "The Parents of Writing". In Helanshan, we find another inscription beside some engravings, "The Writing Deity's Writing (the writing of a writing deity).
These inscriptions reflect the relation of rock art and writing, especially Chinese writing, because it is pictographic character. They are connected not only because they both record daily life, drew man's preserved form in self-expression and creativity, but also that Chinese pictographic characters are connected with rock art directly.
Chinese possesses a wealth of paleographic materials: which inscribed on the fragment of tortoise-shell and bone (Jiaguwen) or used as inscriptions on bronzes (Jiwen) about 3,000-4,000 years ago. The historical significance of bronze inscriptions has already been discussed. The inscriptions recorded mainly the family names of the owner of the vessel and form of address of the ancestor to whom the sacrificial vessel was being dedicated. Pictographic characters usually represented family names. For example, yu (fish) was written in the shape of a fish with carefully drawn lines for the head, tail, scale and fines; and Lu (deer) took the form of a deer with its two antlers branching out.
Inscriptions on bronzes (Jiwen)
The pictorial element of Jiaguwen is also clear and very close to the rock art. In this case, the Chinese ancient writing in the earliest period very closed to the picture, to the rock art, sometimes all the same between rock art and the writing, such as the sun, moon, mountain, bow, cart, field.... and so on. Then, we can say that the Chinese writing origin from rock art; or rock art exert a tremendous influence for the invention of the writing -- and the rock art really is the parents of writing.