Evolution of Characters

Evolution of Characters

Chinese characters have evolved over several thousands of years to include many different styles, or scripts. The main forms are:

  • Oracle Bone Inscriptions (Jia Gu Wen甲骨文), late Shang dynasty (c. 1250–1050 BC).)
  • Bronze Inscriptions, (Jin Wen金文), Shang (1600 – 1046 B.C.) and Zhou (1046 – 256 B.C.) dynasties
  • Small Seal Characters (Xiao Zhuan小篆), Qin Dynasty (221-207 B.C.)

In the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.), different scripts were in use in different warring states. After the conquest and unification of the country, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty simplified and unified the written language, and this unification of the written language significantly influenced the eventual standardization of the Chinese characters.

  • Official Script (Li Shu 隸書), Han Dynasty (206 B.C. – 220 A.D.)

Over time, curved and broken strokes gradually increased, becoming distinct characteristics of this style. Official Script symbolizes a turning point in the evolution history of Chinese characters, after which Chinese characters transitioned into a modern stage of development.

  • Regular Script (KaiShu 楷書), the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 A.D.) and the early Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.)

Regular script reached full maturity in the early Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.), and since then there have been no more major stages of evolution for the mainstream script.

  • Cursive Writing or Grass Stroke Characters (CaoShu 草書),
  • and Freehand Cursive (XingShu行書).