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Ancient Chinese Artifacts

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Alex Dunphy

on 29 November 2012

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Transcript of Ancient Chinese Artifacts

By Issie Brown So how did it work? It's symbolic! Toad So who used it? And How? In 132, Zhang Heng, a scholar involved in many fields, invented and created a device capable of detecting earthquakes! It even could tell the Chinese from which direction the earthquake would come. Zhang Heng had a theory that earthquakes were caused because of the winds and so he called his device Houfeng Didong Yi (Instrument for measuring the seasonal winds and movements of the earth). It was invented more than 1700 years earlier than the western ones that would come later. Unfortunately, we are yet to find the surviving seismograph. Reproductions have been made on records and descriptions from the time. An earthquake is caused by the movement of the earth. This movement caused a pendulum hanging inside the seismograph to swing, triggering a lever corresponding to one of eight dragons around the exterior of the seismograph. This lever would open the mouth of the dragons causing a little metal ball to drop from the dragon's mouth where it had been waiting to a bowl shaped like a toad below. The toad that the ball dropped into indicated from which direction the earthquake would occur. Dragon Did you know, there is a symbolic reason for the dragon and the toad. The dragon and the toad are typically associated with the yin and the yang (a symbol for balance). The Chinese believe that earthquakes are caused because of imbalance, a breach of the yin and yang. The seismograph was eventually used by the Chinese people, particularly the government as a useful tool to get help to the right places quickly. They put it in Jing Shi, the capital at the time, so it would be most effective in its use. At first though, the people didn't believe the seismograph worked. They laughed at it. One day though, the 13th of December, AD 134, the seismograph dectected an earthquake to the west. It was hours later when a messenger arrived and announced that an earthquake had occured 400 miles west! From then, the people had faith in the verablility of the seismograph. Ancient Chinese Seismograph Ancient Chinese Artifacts Who made it? When? Highly ornated Made of strong bronze Modern Equivalent? These days we have a better understanding of earthquakes. We understand better why they happen - its to do with the movement of tectonic plates - and we can measure the strength. Our seismographs these days are more sophisticated, no doubt, but that makes Zhang Heng's no less amazing. How was it made? There is little evidence about exactly how the seismograph was made and exactly what its parts were. There is some disputation over what it was made from - bronze, brass and copper being a few of the guesses. Most historians agree it was shaped a little like an urn or a pot. Most of the evidence around the seismograph's technicalities has vanished without trace, leading some historians to believe that the seismograph was no more than a myth. Others argue that it was real and show records of the seismograph's use. What does this tell us about Ancient Chinese Culture? It shows us that the Chinese were very innovative and intelligent, just as they are now. They were productive and ahead of the times. We do also know that they were very superstitious because before Heng's invention, they believed that earthquakes were caused because of anger in the heavens. We can also infer some things about their culture by the presentation of the seismograph. According to descriptions, it was highly ornate and decorative as well as useful. The Chinese obviously never did things by half. We can also see through the use of the dragon and the toad (the yin and the yang) how important symbols were for the Chinese culture. Those who created ideas or devices that became important inherited some level of power, some control over people's beliefs and habits. Oracle Bones What is it? Definition according to dictionary.com:
A group of inscribed animal bones an shells discovered in China and used originally in divination by the ancient Chinese, especially during the Shang dynasty'.
The oracle bones were used for a form of divination called Pyro-osteomancy which involved reading the cracks in an animal shell or bone to find hidden meaning. How was it made? As stated before, the oracle bone would have been made by a diviner. Sources differ on exactly how the cracks in the bone were made. Some say that the cracks may have just been read from what was already there. Most however, say that the cracks were created by burning the bone in one way or another. Some sources suggest that holes may have been drilled into the bone, then the bone was burnt, others suggest that perhaps a hot appliance was just placed straight onto the bone or shell. From there the diviner would proceed to 'read' the marks made in the shell and record the results. The Inscriptions The inscriptions are believed to be a step on the way to the Chinese characters we see now. There are over 4,600 characters now discovered printed on Oracle bones. We are able to decipher around 1000. There are a few ways the characters worked. One way was onomatopoeic, meaning that the character directly correlated to a thing or action. Another was pictophonetic, meaning that one part of the character conveyed meaning, and another sound. The last way was phonetic loan, meaning that the same character was used for a similar sounding word and it made more sense in context. On the next frames are a few examples of characters. Turtle Eye Tiger What does this tell us about Ancient Chinese Culture? Well, again this tells us how ahead of the times the Chinese were. More than a thousand years before Christ they had already made a good recording system. The Chinese were very god-fearing people. They believed that everything on Earth was a consequence of something happening in the heavens and that if you did something wrong the Gods would show their wrath to you. We can also again see how superstitious the Chinese were; they believed that cracks in a shell could tell you what the Gods had to say to you.
I can see the diviners having a lot of power, like a prophet. People would have been scared of them as they might hold bad news for you from the Gods. Pendulum Levers Dragons Toads Cracks that would have been interpreted for message Scripts that record the result of the test Either bone or turtle shell, which would have been burned to achieve the cracks As we can see, the script relates not only in interesting ways to the modern Chinese characters, we can also see the pictographic nature as some of the characters are easily recognizable. One source suggests the form for recording the inscriptions. This source suggests that the diviner would first right his name and the date on the bone, then write a test with two possible outcomes. For example:
Issie Brown
Tomorrow it will rain
Tomorrow it will not rain
Then the diviner would crack the bone and interpret the cracks to answer his question. Then he would record the answer on the bone too. When were they rediscovered? More about inscriptions ... 'Fixing the Future' Some sources suggest that the Chinese tried to have some control over their future. One source suggests that if they drilled the bone before burning it, they could have drilled it in strategic places. Likewise, they may have burned it in strategic places so it would crack in the right spots. Another source suggests that they chose bits of bones and shells that would have the desired outcome when cracked. In 1899, a man named Wang Jung, of the Qing dynasty found a turtle shell with strange script on it in his medicine. It was claimed to be dragon bones. Wang Jung told his men to find all the dragon bones they could and thus the oracle bones were rediscovered. Now, 113 years later, we have found over 10,000 oracle bones. Zhang Heng, credited as the inventor of the seismograph The Toad and Dragon are typically associated with the Yin and the Yang = Wang Jung found oracle bones in his medicine. The seller claimed them to be dragon bones. ?
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