Christian culture 基督教文化学刊

Communicating the Divine through Characters: An Investigation of the Religious Factors in Prehistorical Chinese Characters

Author: TAO Quyong, Assistant Professor, School of Liberal Arts, Renmin University of China



Unearthed artifacts of sacrificial vessels suggest that a Chinese religious consciousness can be found as early as the late Paleolithic Age, while from the beginning of the Neolithic Age, a large number of carved symbols have been unearthed in the ruins of historic sites in China. These carved symbols appear to be closely tied to Chinese characters, and suggest a possible origin for ancient Chinese characters. This article considers the carved symbols discovered at different sites, including Wuyang Jiahu (the earliest), Banpo (at the heart of early Chinese civilization) and Liangzhu (on the margins of ancient Chinese civilization along the Changjiang River) and proposes that these carved symbols imply a rich variety of religious elements. Based on this discovery, the author argues that religious elements might be a key force in the creation of Chinese characters, a finding that demands we rethink the origin of Chinese characters.



prehistorical Chinese characters, carved characters, religion, unearthed artifacts, early Chinese civilization


Full Text (International Version):

TAO QuyongSCN JSCC.pdf


Full Text (Simplified Chinese Version): 

TAO QuyongSCN JSCC.pdf