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Imperial archive holds clues to Chinese calligraphy

The 2,000-year-old find could shed light on the evolution of Chinese calligraphy
The 2,000-year-old find could shed light on the evolution of Chinese calligraphy  

BEIJING, China -- The discovery of a vast archive of imperial Chinese documents written on bamboo slips could provide important clues on how China's writing system developed, archaeologists have said.

The documents, originating from the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC) were found in a village well in June in the southern province of Hunan, according to China's official Xinhua news agency.

The agency on Thursday quoted experts as saying the find could prove one of the most important recent archaeological discoveries, shedding light on the evolution of modern Chinese calligraphy.

In all some 20,000 bamboo slips printed with more than 200,000 hard-drawn characters have been recovered.

So far only a small number of the strips have been cleaned and studied by calligraphy experts.

However, archaeologists believe the collection was part of an archive from Qin Dynasty government archives.

According to Xinhua, the founder of the Qin Dynasty, Emperor Qin Shi Huang, was the first ruler to standardize China's diverse range of writing styles.

Qin, who conquered six ancient kingdoms to unify China, ordered all of his subjects to write in one specific style known as Xiaozhun, or Lesser Seal style.

Archeologists who have examined the archive say they contain a rich variety of characters drawn in a smooth writing style indicating a highly advanced calligraphic style.

"These slips are of great significance for the study of the evolution of Chinese handwritings in the early stages," Xinhua quoted Chinese language expert Zhang Chunlong as saying.

The Hunan Archaeological Institute says it plans to photograph and document all of the bamboo slips eventually publishing the entire archive in a book.




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