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What did the ancient Chinese use before paper?


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#1 Moose

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Posted 26 January 2005 - 08:48 AM

What did they use for writing material before the invention of paper.I know they did use those bamboo strips tied with strings. But were those used for official purposes too or are there other materials that were used?
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#2 Yun

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Posted 26 January 2005 - 08:59 AM

For more prestigious purposes, pieces of silk would be used.
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#3 Kulong

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Posted 26 January 2005 - 09:51 AM

Bamboo scrolls
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#4 Moose

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Posted 26 January 2005 - 10:52 AM

Bamboo scrolls

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Even for imperial edicts and other similar purposes?
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#5 浪淘音

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Posted 26 January 2005 - 11:16 AM

Even for imperial edicts and other similar purposes?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


especially for imperial edicts or at least general information passed up to the emperor

#6 W Fēi

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Posted 26 January 2005 - 11:32 AM

Even for imperial edicts and other similar purposes?

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

In different eras there was different materials and usages.
Generally:
1. Silk for the imperial edicts/imperial rescripts, usually with exquisite embroidery as flower pattern on it. In the latter dynasties as Han, ordinary silk was also used by the vassals or rich people, without any color and adornment overstepped in the rank system.
2. Bamboo scrolls, made up of bamboo strips (or wooden strips) with oxhide strings, for common writing, such as the knowledge books and materials. Usually it was used to record office files and military orders, as the paper's function today.
3. Metal pieces or metal containers for the royal ritual.
4. Animals' bones and tortoise shells (bottom shells) for augury and some important events, in the early time of the history (as in the Dynasties of Xia, Shang, Xi Zhou).
5. Stone steles for the imperial praise and memory.
6. Other materials.

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#7 hansioux

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Posted 26 January 2005 - 06:05 PM

In different eras there was different materials and usages.
Generally:
1. Silk for the imperial edicts/imperial rescripts, usually with exquisite embroidery as flower pattern on it. In the latter dynasties as Han, ordinary silk was also used by the vassals or rich people, without any color and adornment overstepped in the rank system.
2. Bamboo scrolls, made up of bamboo strips (or wooden strips) with oxhide strings, for common writing, such as the knowledge books and materials. Usually it was used to record office files and military orders, as the paper's function today.
3. Metal pieces or metal containers for the royal ritual.
4. Animals' bones and tortoise shells (bottom shells) for augury and some important events, in the early time of the history (as in the Dynasties of Xia, Shang, Xi Zhou).
5. Stone steles for the imperial praise and memory.
6. Other materials.

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Well, there are a lot of writting on the bronze objects made in Shang and Zhou dynasties. But I guess people don't just go out and melt some bronze when they want to write something XD
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#8 W Fēi

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Posted 28 January 2005 - 11:48 AM

Well, there are a lot of writting on the bronze objects made in Shang and Zhou dynasties. But I guess people don't just go out and melt some bronze when they want to write something XD

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>

They didn't usually melt the metal for writing, but just carving on the ready-made bronze container. In the Museum of Lvshun (旅顺博物馆/旅順博物館) I once found several pieces of metal carved characters. Since writing was monopolized mainly by the king and noble class, of course including the flamens, they left little chance to the common people to write, even on bones or wooden pieces. I think even though the ruling guys didn't write frequently.

此生区区几十年,
Life takes decades,
如朝露,如幻影;
Short as morning dew and illusion;
几番意气几度浮华,
How much vigor,How many vanities,
不过梦中之梦。
Are only dreams played in a dream.

#9 Tibet Libre

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 10:36 AM

1. Silk for the imperial edicts/imperial rescripts, usually with exquisite embroidery as flower pattern on it.

2. Bamboo scrolls, made up of bamboo strips (or wooden strips) with oxhide strings, for common writing, such as the knowledge books and materials.


Do you have pics?

The other day I was in an exposition on Tibetan art and they had curious books (made out of palm leaves): Single sheets of palm leaves were arranged in a pile and put between a highly ornamented hardcover. The pages were loose, that is not bound, glued or sewn together, so that for reading one could open the hardcover and pull out a single sheet from the stack. Were the typical Chinese books like that, too?

#10 Publius

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Posted 26 October 2006 - 11:38 AM

Do you have pics?

The other day I was in an exposition on Tibetan art and they had curious books (made out of palm leaves): Single sheets of palm leaves were arranged in a pile and put between a highly ornamented hardcover. The pages were loose, that is not bound, glued or sewn together, so that for reading one could open the hardcover and pull out a single sheet from the stack. Were the typical Chinese books like that, too?



I saw an exhibit of some bamboo strip documents in Changsha.

Posted Image

Here's an article from Chinaculture about the strips:

From July to November 1996, the Cultural Relics Work Team from Changsha in Hunan province, in coordination with construction work in the city, excavated 57 ancient wells inside the walls of the construction site on the southwest side of Zoumalou Street in downtown Changsha. In the process, they excavated several thousand items of all sorts made of steel, iron, ceramics, and bamboo. Approximately 100,000 bamboo manuscripts from the Wu Dynasty (222-280) of the Three Kingdoms period were unearthed from the site. The earliest date recorded in these bamboo strips was the 25th year (220) of the Jian'an era under Emperor Xian of the Eastern Han, and the latest was the 6th year (237) of Jiahe reign of the Wu Dynasty.


Because of the damp climate of the south, relatively high underground water level and soil pressure, and concentrated pollution at the bottom of the excavation, the condition of the bamboo documents is relatively poor, but a small portion are well-preserved. The documents that have been sorted out include bamboo strips, wooden tablets, bamboo plates, inspection seals, and sealing-clay boxes. Judging by the surviving vestiges, the bamboo and wood-strip documents were bound together to form a volume, generally read from top to bottom, were first bound and then written on, with several volumes left blank at the bindery. The bamboo documents recorded taxes, census registers, storehouse management, land tax flow, military and civilian opening of wasteland for cultivation, and correspondence -- touching on every aspect of social economy, government, and law.


In the 20th century, bamboo slips have been found continually all over China, before the excavation of Zoumalou, the total of these items had already surpassed 90,000 pieces. But there were approximately 100,000 pieces found just at Zoumalou! Discovering such a vast number of ancient documents in one place at one time is incredibly rare, and can be called a find of the century. Only a small amount of historical documentation survives from the Three Kingdoms Period. The bamboo documents unearthed from Zoumalou, which recorded the reign of the Wu Dynasty, possess academic value from various perspectives.

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#11 Johnny

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 12:46 PM

Hello, my name is Johnny.

I was just wondering; did they also use parchment before paper?

#12 Solid_Snake

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Posted 04 February 2007 - 10:17 PM

Hello, my name is Johnny.

I was just wondering; did they also use parchment before paper?


Parchment? as in Sheep or Ox skin? I honestly don't know.
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#13 Johnny

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 09:36 PM

Yes, as in sheep or ox skin. Thanks anyways. I know that early Muslims used parchment.

#14 Mei Houwang

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 02:41 AM

I was just wondering; did they also use parchment before paper?


No reliable source springs to mind. I only recall historical TV dramas in which Warring States period used animal skin for drawing maps. Cloth and bamboo scrolls were common though. I honestly don't know how parchment would have survived such a long period, that is if the Warring States did use them. But then again, the same thing could be said for cloth, bamboo scrolls, and papyrus from Egypt/Rome.

#15 General_Zhaoyun

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Posted 15 September 2008 - 02:52 AM

The most common material used for writing (before paper was invented) was bamboo strips (known as "Zhu Jian 竹简"). There were also wooden strips.

Silks (known as "Bo 帛") tended to be very expensive in ancient times. As such, it was not commonly used by commoners. Silk were more likely to be used by Imperial or Aristocratic family.

Below is a picture example of a bamboo scroll:

Posted Image
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