The Japan Times
April 21, 2000

China writing pushed back 2,000 years

BEIJING (AP) Pushing back the history of their language by 2,000 years, Chinese archaeologists said that inscriptions on a 4,800-year-old piece of pottery are the earliest form of Chinese writing ever discovered, state media reported Thursday.

The inscriptions were found on pottery wine vessels unearthed in Juxian, a county in eastern China's Shandong Province once inhabited by the Taihao, a tribe that worshipped gods of wine and nature, the official Xinhua News Agency said.

From the more than 20 drawings, archaeologists have deciphered seven ancient Chinese characters, including words for "south," "ordinary," and "enjoy," Xinhua said.

"This pushes back the history of the Chinese script by some 2,000 years," the news agency quoted Wang Shuming, a researcher at the Shandong Institute of Relics and Archaeology, as saying.

"A script must have regular forms and given pronunciations and express certain meanings," Wang said: "The pottery hieroglyphs evidently satisfy this criteria."

Xinhua did not say if outside experts had been consulted on the find. Chinese archaeologists and historians have been under pressure from the government to prove that the Chinese people have more than 5,000 years of continuous history.