Lecture: Diviners and Scribes: The Origins and Development of Writing in China

Listen to the lecture: "Diviners and Scribes" (mp3) 1:12

On Wednesday, October 6, "Diviners and Scribes: the Origins and Development of Writing in China" will explore how China became one of the few regions in the world where the literacy developed independently. The last hundred years of discovery, decipherment, and archaeological discovery of texts now draw a rich and detailed picture of the early development of writing.

Toward the end of the second millennium BC in China, the Shang royal family was investing immense resources in divination. Multiple teams of specialist diviners were employed full-time at the Shang kings' capital near Anyang to determine the scheduling and content of sacrifices to their ancestors. These complex procedures provide the context for understanding an emerging system of writing and how it spread. Dr. Adam Smith, Society of Fellows in the Humanities, Columbia University, is the speaker.


Chinese Shang bronze inscription with lineage emblem and kin appellation.

Wednesday, October 6: "Diviners and Scribes: the Origins and Development of Writing in China"

5:30 PM Geological Lecture Hall, 24 Oxford St., Cambridge, MA, followed by a public reception at the Peabody Museum.

Information: 617-496-1027

See more about the Visible Language series.