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A career scripted in history

By Yang Feiyue| China Daily| Updated: July 4, 2023 L M S


Li Ying regularly visits the library to study oracle bone scripts and ancient history. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Oracle bone specialist innovates to bring her message to a wider audience, Yang Feiyue reports.

Li Ying has her eyes wide open, apparently in shock, as she points out the rarity of her college background in oracle bone script studies.

"You can't possibly imagine how obscure this profession is. Everyone who hears about my profession reacts with this flabbergasted expression," she explains with a theatrical look in one of her most popular videos on her Douyin account.

As she shares related embarrassing moments, like being asked if her graduation paper was written in the form of oracle bone script, a resigned smile appears.

For the rest of the 150-second video, Li concisely explains the origin, functions and significance of the ancient script and gives her audience a comprehensive picture of the field.

"Many of the words we use now don't have a counterpart in the oracle bone script, which was mainly used by official historians for divination during the Shang Dynasty (c. 16th-11th century BC)," explains Li, who was born in Tonglu county, Hangzhou, East China's Zhejiang province.

Nearly 160,000 pieces of scripted oracle bones have been discovered over the past 120 years, and they are scattered among museums at home and abroad, as well as libraries, and science and technology institutes, according to He Yuling, a researcher with the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

With sheer volumes that have been discovered, the oracle bone scripts have now been put into several categories for deeper studies, including those on weather, hunting activities and sacrificial rituals, Li says.

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