by Rock Art Network
24 August 2023
'The Origins of Chinese Writing'
By Paola Demattè
In 'The Origins of Chinese Writing' Paola Demattè presents a complete view of the emergence of Chinese writing from prehistoric sign making to Bronze Age writing. She discusses non-linguistic signs that have generally received little attention in previous studies, and adopts an inclusive intellectual approach that goes beyond the Western tradition.
This study explores the evidence for Chinese writing in the late Neolithic (3500-2000 BCE) and early Bronze Age (2000-1250 BCE) periods. Chinese writing is often said to have begun with little incubation during the late Shang period (c. 1300-1045 BCE) in the middle-lower Yellow River Valley area as a sudden independent invention. This explanation runs counter to evidence from Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Mesoamerica that shows that independent developments of writing generally undergo a protracted evolution. It also ignores archaeological data from the Chinese Neolithic and early Bronze Age that reveals the existence of signs comparable to Shang characters.
Paola Demattè takes this data into account to address the issue of what writing is, and when, why, and how it develops, by employing a theory of writing that does not privilege language as a prime mover. It focuses instead on visual systems of communication as well as ideological and socio-economic developments as key elements that promote the eventual development of writing. To understand the processes that led to primary developments of writing, The Origins of Chinese Writing draws from the latest research on the early writing systems of Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Mesoamerica, and other forms of protowriting. The result is a novel and inclusive theoretical approach to the archaeological evidence, grammatological data, and textual sources, an approach that demonstrates that Chinese writing emerged out of a long process that began in the Late Neolithic and continued during the Early Bronze Age.
About the Author:
Paola Demattè is Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology in the Theory and History of Art and Design Department at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Published by Oxford University Press, 22 December 2022
320 Pages - 85 H/T Illustrations and 20 Line Illustrations
Also Available As: Ebook
Also Available In: Oxford Scholarship Online
Available on Amazon:
Itinerant Creeds: The Chinese Northern Frontier by Paola Demattè:Click here to read 'Itinerant Creeds' Comment