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This Little Primer introduces students of classical Chinese to the earliest extant body of Chinese texts dating from about the 13th to the 10th centuries BC. These texts are known as Oracle-Bone Inscriptions and relate to any matter that was deemed sufficiently important to require consultation with the ancestors and deities of the Shāng aristocracy.
Indispensable to the study of the history of Chinese religion, politics, agriculture, the calendar system, hunting, warfare, medicine, sacrificial and ritual practices, and other matters of life in China’s first historical dynasty, these more than 130,000 pieces of inscribed turtle plastrons and bovine scapulas, though mostly fragmented, comprise more text in terms of number of characters than the combined transmitted traditional pre-Qín classical Chinese texts.
The material is presented in three forms: normalized transcriptions of the texts into modern standard Chinese script, translations into English, and ink-squeezes or rubbings of the original texts. There is also a detailed linguistic and philological explanation of the text, plus an annotation, and commentary on the cultural and historical background of the material. No special background in analyzing grammar and syntax will be required to understand most, if not all, of the materials presented in this Little Primer.