Kanji tales: Communicating with God by Kanji

Do you believe that there were times when Kanji used to be the characters of Gods? And people used it to ask Gods about the future, and now we still use the same holy characters! Characters that have been in use for more than 3000 years. that means that we can read characters as old as the pharaohs hieroglyphs TODAY. The cool thing is it’s not limited to Kanji experts to read this magnificent characters, Even if you just started learning Kanji you can read it. Actually even if you don’t know any Kanji at all you can still understand a few characters. since it started as ideographs it looks like a drawing.

well, practically you can’t read Kanji if you are a beginner but look at this and think about what each character means.

Some characters from the oracle bone scripture
Some characters from the oracle bone scripture

I bet you can guess the meaning, If you look from left to right (Moon, Eye, Horse, Deer, Sun, River, Turtle, Person)
And if you think this is too simple for “Gods”, read along to find out why…

Cang jie
Cāng Jié

According to a Chinese legend Cāng Jié [蒼頡] is thought to be the one who invented the Chinese characters. He was portrayed to have four eyes to represent his sharp observation ability, and the legend says that the shapes of stars in the skies and foot prints of birds inspired him to create the ideographs [象形文字]. however this is only a legend and it’s credibility is highly doubted. There is a significant amount of Chinese characters which is hard to believe that only one person created all of it. However, the fact that his name was reported through history and was made into a legend means that he must had great contribution to the history of Kanji. Since the most primitive form of Kanji was used for divination, It’s presumable that he was a diviner, an extraordinary one. he might have created new symbols by researching the old symbols and due to his great contributions he gained his name and went down in history.

We can’t help but think about how did a 3000+ years old characters develop and become what we know today as hanji, hanja and kanji (Chinese characters)?

It all began with the scribes of the Yin [殷] Dynasty [from about 1700-1050 B.C.] The earliest Kanji specimen known today is referred to as Oracle Bone Scripture [ 甲骨文 ]

Oracle bone scripture.
Oracle bone scripture.

Oracle Bone Scripture was written on tortoise shell and animal bones, and was used by the Emperors of the Yin Dynasty for divination, They would use tortoise shells and first carve what the divination is about and then put a hole in it and then burn it which made the shell crack and the cracks formed shapes by which they decided the result of the divination. then they carve the result as well as the name of the diviner, and later on they would carve if the divination result came true or not.
In other words, Kanji was used to communicate with god. since primitive people couldn’t explain natural phenomena, catastrophes and disasters they thought it was the doing of God or evil spirits or even their ancestors,  so they figured they can communicate with god to ask hem for help and advice. However, divination wasn’t made for commoner, but only for the royal family.

The latest excavation showed that there are 4600 different characters found in what was carved on 160000 tortoise shells. and by the time these characters were used in China Japan was still in the Jomon period.

Some characters from the oracle bone scripture
Some characters from the oracle bone scripture




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