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#1 Theoic

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 06:25 PM

I'm not really sure if this post belongs in this section but...

I'm doing a paper on ancient Chinese cryptography and was wondering if anyone could point me towards some useful resources or had any information I could use?

#2 Craig

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 08:38 PM

I'm not really sure if this post belongs in this section but...

I'm doing a paper on ancient Chinese cryptography and was wondering if anyone could point me towards some useful resources or had any information I could use?



Tao Magic: The Secret Language of Diagrams and Calligraphy by Laszlo Legeza
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#3 Theoic

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 09:05 PM

thank you. i'll see what i can do with it.

#4 fireball

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 10:19 PM

You need to check out Nu Shu (女書 - nu3 shu - female script). It's a secret language/codes invented by women in a certain area in ancient China. They invented it so that they could talk to their friends without their husbands or other male relatives knowing what they are talking about. A lot of times, these scripts were embroidered on their clothing or handkerchieves. In 20th century, some scholars discovered this language, so you could find information about this on the internet. It would be one of the major development of ancient Chinese Cryptography.

Btw, when some English speakers who can't understand something, they would say it's French. In China, when we saw some writings we don't understand, we call it Daoist's Fu drawn by the ghosts (鬼畫符 - gui3 hua4 fu2). :) I mention this here because this thread is about secret codes and symbols.

There were also several style of poems that hides the actual poems. They were written by famous poets in ancient China. Only the quick-witted people could get the real poems out of these very strange half poem, half drawings. There are: hidden-head poems (藏頭詩 -cang2 tou2 shi), hui-huan poems (回环詩 - hui2 huan2 shi - circular poems), etc. The most famouse ones were made by Su Dongpo (蘇東坡). That was one of his interests. He wrote one of his poems with fewer words than the correct number of words for the poem, and some of the words were long and some flat, and some of the words were missing parts and some were lying sideways. Then, he asked his friends to read his new poems. Everyone looked at it and got stuck. Then, one of his friends (or maybe his concubine -- I forgot) was able to read it correctly. I don't have those poems, but maybe someone else could provide those information for you.

There were also puzzle poems for guessing words, phrases, people's names, or items. However, I don't think those should be included in the area of cryptography. The other stuff I have mentioned above were used by some people in military works and transmitting information between spies later on all throughout the Chinese history (except for Nu Shu that was only being used by women beween themselves). At least I remember reading some autobiographies or records of late Qing dynasty's revolutionaries who used these methods. In addition, some Chinese gangster groups, like Hong Bang (洪幫) and Qing Bang (青幫) also use some of these methods I believe.

#5 Theoic

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Posted 02 December 2007 - 11:50 PM

thank you. this will be very useful.

i also found a mathematical theorem called the "Chinese remainder theorem". i was wondering if anyone could explain it in more layman's terms rather than mathematical terms? both due to my lack of expertise in complex mathematics (number theory) and my audience (hates math).

#6 kaiselin

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 01:01 AM

There was a thread that I posted some info on nu shu in about 7 or 8 months ago and I cant seem to find it.
I could have sworn I put it in Chinese Scripts and Etymology . :wallbash:

If any one can remember where I posted it I would greatly apprecaite you telling me where I left it.

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#7 Howard Fu

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 01:28 AM

I'm not really sure if this post belongs in this section but...

I'm doing a paper on ancient Chinese cryptography and was wondering if anyone could point me towards some useful resources or had any information I could use?

I think you can find some interesting information about Chinese cryptography from The Codebreakers: The Comprehensive History of Secret Communication from Ancient Times to the Internet. http://www.amazon.co...t/dp/0684831309

This link has some interesting information about ancient Chinese cryptography that's not in the book above. http://dreaminwind.b...7/2493393.shtml

Strictly speaking, cryptography in its modern sense didn't exist in ancient China. Maybe because Chinese is not alphabet based.

i also found a mathematical theorem called the "Chinese remainder theorem". i was wondering if anyone could explain it in more layman's terms rather than mathematical terms? both due to my lack of expertise in complex mathematics (number theory) and my audience (hates math).

There is a story. Han Xin had a special way to count number of his soldiers. He let the soldiers first number off by 3, then he let them number off by 5, then 7. Then he knew how many soldiers he had. That's all what Chinese remainder theorem do.

Edited by Howard Fu, 03 December 2007 - 01:29 AM.

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#8 fireball

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 02:20 AM

Theoic, would you be OK with the Chinese info in the website Howard Fu posted? If you do, I will try to translate them for you later.

However, thank you for posting that great website. I have seen some of those before, but did not know that they could be used for the military encoding.

#9 Theoic

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 12:30 PM

Theoic, would you be OK with the Chinese info in the website Howard Fu posted? If you do, I will try to translate them for you later.

However, thank you for posting that great website. I have seen some of those before, but did not know that they could be used for the military encoding.



yes i would love to use it, if i could read it lol. i assume it's good stuff. if you could translate for me that would be great!

and howard, i realize that cryptography is lacking in china, but i have managed to find some good examples of steganography that i am using. hopefully the information you have provided will also help :)

#10 fireball

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 03:41 PM

yes i would love to use it, if i could read it lol. i assume it's good stuff. if you could translate for me that would be great!


OK! I might do it in parts, and I will probably just do the paraphrasing if you don't mind. I will include the Chinese originals with my translated parts, so you could quote them or have them translated in more details when you can. Fortunately for you, encoding is also part of my professional training, so, hopefully, I could make heads and tails from this stuff; i.e. if I didn't return all I have learned to my professors. :rolleyes: :)

#11 fireball

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 04:41 PM

From: http://dreaminwind.b...7/2493393.shtml

古代军事信息保密的语言手段
Language methods to keep secrets of military messages in ancient time.

posted by: 风中梦想 at: 2007-9-4 14:06:00

The original author was: 李苏鸣.
Book name: 《军事语言研究》
Publisher: (人民武警出版社2006年出版)


自然语言是人类最重要的交际工具,是信息交流和传承的基本载体。传统的军事信息保密,也主要表现为对承载秘密信息的自然语言成品的保密。在信息载体(媒体)不断增多、保密科技迅速发展的今天,对军事信息语言载体的保密,仍然是不可或缺的重要手段。

The natural language is the most important tool for human communication, and it is the basic carrier for exchanging and delivering messages. The traditional methods to keep the military messages in secret are also primarily expressed in the ways to keep the products of the natural languages that deliver the secret messages. In today’s world when the types of carriers for messages are continuously increasing and the encoding techniques are developed faster and faster, to keep the secrets for the language carriers of the military messages is still a very important necessity.

军事信息的传统保密技术多种多样。从我国军事历史上出现过的保密技术看,最早的保密手段是非语言的。战国军事著作《六韬•阴符》中就记载了当时的“阴符”通信方法。所谓“阴符”就是一种符节,由通信双方事先约定不同长度的符节所代表的意思。北宋时编撰的《武经总要》对此也有记载。周武王时期(约公元前11世纪),姜太公就使用阴符作为符契来进行军事保密通信。他将符契的一定长度与特定军事信息相对应,如:长一寸为“大胜克敌”,长九寸为“破军擒将”,长八寸为“降城得邑”,长七寸为“却敌报远”,长六寸为“警众坚守”,长五寸为“精良益民”,长四寸为“败军亡将”,长三寸为“失利亡士”。这种以物件长度来进行保密通信的方法虽然不是的现代意义的密码通信,但与密码却着重要的共同特征——变换。密码是把语言成品变换成另一组符号,而“阴符”则是把军事信息变换成事先约定的符节长度。因此,我们可以说,阴符是一种“准密码”,这个“准密码”就是不同的长度,是一种非语言的保密符号;而符节仅仅是长度的载体或表征物。

There were many ways to keep secrets for the military messages traditionally. The techniques to protect the secrets of the military messages in our (Chinese) military history had nothing to do with the language itself. In the military book 《六韬•阴符》 during the Warring States period, there was a communication method called “阴符”. “阴符” is kind of stick or other items. Both sides had prior understanding of the meanings represented by the different lengths of the stick. North Song dynasty’s 《武经总要》 also recorded this method. In the time of King Wu of Zhou dynasty (about 11th century B.C.), 姜太公 (the strategist, master Jiang) used “阴符” to help keep secrets of the military messages. He decided each length matched each corresponding military message. For example, one inch stick means victory. 9 inches stick means the army has broken the enemy army and captured the enemy generals. 8 inches stick means the enemy’s city (cities) has surrendered. 7 inches stick means successfully resisted the enemy’s army and the enemy’s army was gone. 6 inches stick means the army should be alert and defend the place diligently. The 5 inches stick means keeping the army well and helping the people (?). The 4 inches stick means the army was defeated and there were general(s) died. The 3 inches stick means the army was defeated and we lost lots of soldiers. Although this method is not the modern encoding method, it does have the same idea of the modern encoding methods – exchange. Encoding is to exchange the language into something else. This method of “阴符” is to use the pre-arranged lengths of an item to exchange the military messages. Therefore, we could say that this method is a proper encoding method. This encoding method is the lengths of an item, the non-language secret symbols. The item itself is just the carrier of the lengths and the item of expression.

Please note: More to come. This is just an introduction.

#12 Theoic

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 05:31 PM

From: http://dreaminwind.b...7/2493393.shtml

古代军事信息保密的语言手段
Language methods to keep secrets of military messages in ancient time.

posted by: 风中梦想 at: 2007-9-4 14:06:00

The original author was: 李苏鸣.
Book name: 《军事语言研究》
Publisher: (人民武警出版社2006年出版)


自然语言是人类最重要的交际工具,是信息交流和传承的基本载体。传统的军事信息保密,也主要表现为对承载秘密信息的自然语言成品的保密。在信息载体(媒体)不断增多、保密科技迅速发展的今天,对军事信息语言载体的保密,仍然是不可或缺的重要手段。

The natural language is the most important tool for human communication, and it is the basic carrier for exchanging and delivering messages. The traditional methods to keep the military messages in secret are also primarily expressed in the ways to keep the products of the natural languages that deliver the secret messages. In today’s world when the types of carriers for messages are continuously increasing and the encoding techniques are developed faster and faster, to keep the secrets for the language carriers of the military messages is still a very important necessity.

军事信息的传统保密技术多种多样。从我国军事历史上出现过的保密技术看,最早的保密手段是非语言的。战国军事著作《六韬•阴符》中就记载了当时的“阴符”通信方法。所谓“阴符”就是一种符节,由通信双方事先约定不同长度的符节所代表的意思。北宋时编撰的《武经总要》对此也有记载。周武王时期(约公元前11世纪),姜太公就使用阴符作为符契来进行军事保密通信。他将符契的一定长度与特定军事信息相对应,如:长一寸为“大胜克敌”,长九寸为“破军擒将”,长八寸为“降城得邑”,长七寸为“却敌报远”,长六寸为“警众坚守”,长五寸为“精良益民”,长四寸为“败军亡将”,长三寸为“失利亡士”。这种以物件长度来进行保密通信的方法虽然不是的现代意义的密码通信,但与密码却着重要的共同特征——变换。密码是把语言成品变换成另一组符号,而“阴符”则是把军事信息变换成事先约定的符节长度。因此,我们可以说,阴符是一种“准密码”,这个“准密码”就是不同的长度,是一种非语言的保密符号;而符节仅仅是长度的载体或表征物。

There were many ways to keep secrets for the military messages traditionally. The techniques to protect the secrets of the military messages in our (Chinese) military history had nothing to do with the language itself. In the military book 《六韬•阴符》 during the Warring States period, there was a communication method called “阴符”. “阴符” is kind of stick or other items. Both sides had prior understanding of the meanings represented by the different lengths of the stick. North Song dynasty’s 《武经总要》 also recorded this method. In the time of King Wu of Zhou dynasty (about 11th century B.C.), 姜太公 (the strategist, master Jiang) used “阴符” to help keep secrets of the military messages. He decided each length matched each corresponding military message. For example, one inch stick means victory. 9 inches stick means the army has broken the enemy army and captured the enemy generals. 8 inches stick means the enemy’s city (cities) has surrendered. 7 inches stick means successfully resisted the enemy’s army and the enemy’s army was gone. 6 inches stick means the army should be alert and defend the place diligently. The 5 inches stick means keeping the army well and helping the people (?). The 4 inches stick means the army was defeated and there were general(s) died. The 3 inches stick means the army was defeated and we lost lots of soldiers. Although this method is not the modern encoding method, it does have the same idea of the modern encoding methods – exchange. Encoding is to exchange the language into something else. This method of “阴符” is to use the pre-arranged lengths of an item to exchange the military messages. Therefore, we could say that this method is a proper encoding method. This encoding method is the lengths of an item, the non-language secret symbols. The item itself is just the carrier of the lengths and the item of expression.

Please note: More to come. This is just an introduction.



this is really good stuff. thank you for translating. if there is anything else that you believe is useful would you please translate that also?

#13 fireball

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 06:03 PM

this is really good stuff. thank you for translating. if there is anything else that you believe is useful would you please translate that also?


There are other 5 parts. Each are different methods, and I will translate them all.

Edited by fireball, 03 December 2007 - 06:04 PM.


#14 Howard Fu

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 06:52 PM

Hi Fireball,
Thank you so much for the nice translation! :clapping:
I would've done that if this is not the end of the term, but my English is much worse than yours.

Hi Theoic,
You are right. I think most of the secret communication of ancient China should be classified as steganography, like using invisible ink, writing a letter with extremely thin brush then seal it in a wax ball.
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#15 fireball

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Posted 03 December 2007 - 07:49 PM

一、阴书法——准语言手段
I. The method of 阴书 - Actual language method:

与“阴符”几乎同时出现的另一种原始的军事保密技术是“阴书”。《六韬•阴书》对此也有记载。所谓“阴书”,就是把一封竖写的秘密文书横截成3段,派出3个人各执一段,于不同时间、不同路线分别出发,先后送给收件者。收件者收齐了3段文件才能悉知秘密文书的全部内容。万一送件途中某一发送者被敌方截获,敌方也难以解读文书的全部内容。

At same time of “阴符”, another ancient method to protect the military secrets was “阴书”. There was a record of “阴书” in the same book, 《六韬•阴书》. The so call “阴书” was to write the document vertically and cut it into 3 sections. Sent 3 persons, and each person would hold one of the sections. They would depart in different times and using different paths. When the receiver received all 3 parts, he could get the whole thing of this secret document. If one of the messengers was captured by the enemies, the enemy would have difficulties to understand the secret document.

实际上,“阴书法”并不是严格意义上的自然语言保密手段,而是通过截断秘密信息载体,使意义完整的自然语言成品形成物理隔离,从而达到局部保密的目的。不过,这种对信息载体实施物理截断的方法,事实上破坏了已有的话语结构,隔离了上下文的自然联系,甚至还可能将完整的文字截成两段。从这个意义上看,“阴书法”也有了一些语言手段的意味,即直接地破坏了语言成品的完整性。由此往后的军事保密技术开始逐步地向运用语言手段过渡。语音手段、文字手段、词汇手段、语法手段等,都在军事保密中得以充分运用。

Actually, this method is not the method to protect the language itself, strictly speaking. It uses the method of cutting into pieces and separating the carrier item in order to protect the secret message. It caused the separation of the end product of the natural language with the useful information. In fact, it destroyed the construction of the sentences, and separated the natural connection of the whole essay. It could even chop the complete phrases into two. In a way, “阴书法” had a bit of techniques in manipulating the language itself; i.e. directly destroyed the completeness of the end product of the language. From then on, the techniques of protecting the military secrets began to migrate towards manipulating language itself. The pronunciations, the words, the phrases, the grammar are all used in the methods of protecting the military secrets.




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