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The Performance Of Writing In Western Zhou China

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Chapter Summary

This chapter examines the context of the early development of Chinese writing, and discusses the specific political, social, and religious circumstances in which its function of public display emerged. It focuses on the bronze inscriptions of the Western Zhou (ca. 1045-771 BCE), and especially on those from the Middle Western Zhou period and after. These inscriptions not only show an increasingly accentuated use of calligraphy. They also, in a way the Shang oracle carvings and the very early Western Zhou bronze inscriptions do not, mention certain officials in charge of formalized writing, and they give account of the presentation of written texts in contexts of social and political ritual. In numerous examples especially from the Middle Western Zhou period onward, one finds that the beautiful, regularly spaced calligraphy was itself ornamental.

Keywords: bronze inscriptions; calligraphy; Chinese writing; Western Zhou period

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