The Origin and Early Development of the Chinese Writing System (American Oriental #78) (Paperback)

By William Boltz

American Oriental Society, 9780940490185, 215pp.

Publication Date: June 30, 2003

List Price: 29.50*
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Originally published in 1994 (hardcover now out of print), this volume has been reprinted in a new paperback format that will make it more attractive and affordable for use in the classroom. The work sketches with extraordinary precision the history of the Chinese writing system from the late Shang (ca. 1200 B.C.) when Chinese characters are first in evidence down to the script's standardization and codification a millennium later in the Ch'in and Han (221 B.C.-A.D. 220). Prof. Boltz takes in part a comparative approach to the origin and early structure and development of Chinese writing, suggesting that in its general principles the process was matched pari passu by the way writing first arose in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and among the Mayas (for example, that the Chinese script records the sounds of words, not ideas). The author also examines the question of why the Chinese script never became alphabetic, in spite of hints of such tendencies in the third and second centuries B.C. Kidder Smith, of Bowdoin College, said of the original publication: "... this book will be highly valued by anyone concerned with the relationships of language to writing, and should become the point of reference for all discussions of these questions as they pertain to ancient Chinese" (Religious Studies Review Vol. 21, No. 4, October 1995).