An Investigation of the Written-records Inscribed on the Shell-bridges of the Shang Dynasty

December 1984
Hanxue Yanjiu (Chinese Studies);1984, Vol. 2 Issue 2, p481
Academic Journal
The shell-bridge is the part connecting turtle's shell and turtle's plastron. The term "shell-bridge inscriptions" is used only for those written-records inscribed on the shell-bridges, which are different from average divinations. The distribution of written-record inscriptions on the shell-bridges can be divided into four categories: 1. Written-record inscriptions on the right shell-bridges can be seen frequently among large turtle's plastrons. 2. Written-record inscriptions on the right shell-bridges and inscriber's or his residential names on the left shell-bridges, or vice versa. This category can generally be seen among the large, medium, small sizes' plastrons. 3. Written-record inscriptions on both bridges. This category can be seen more often among small size plastrons. 4. Special cases on both bridges. This category can be seen among all sizes' plastrons. In this paper, I list thirteen different phenomena relative to shell- bridge inscriptions, some of them not been known before, which, however, have been sorted out from those inscriptions upon the less fragmental or restored plastrons. For examples: 1. The contribution's figures as seen in the shell-bridge inscriptions are often contrary to the size of turtle upon which inscriptions were made. That is to say that the contribution's figures inscribed on the larger turtles are smaller, but on the smaller turtles, larger. This indicates that turtles for divination were in fact the contributions. 2. Some of the characters inscribed on shell-bridge were sawed into halves from the middle. This indicates that the shell-bridge inscriptions were inscribed upon the bridges before the shells or the plastron were treated for divintional purpose. 3. In a plastron set, the inscriptions on each shell-bridge was identical, but not every shell-bridge was inscribed.


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