Identifying and Mapping Issues, Theories, & Research in Asian/American Rhetoric(s): An Annotated Bibliography

Conclusion to Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions

Posted in Asian Rhetoric(s) by Jennifer Sano-Franchini on May 7, 2009

Tsien, Tsuen-Hsuin. “Conclusion.” Written on Bamboo and Silk: The Beginnings of Chinese Books and Inscriptions. U of Chicago P, 2004.

In this conclusion, Tsien discusses in more detail the types of writing materials used in ancient China, explaining that “Some of them were hard and durable [e.g. bones, shells, metal, stone, jade, pottery, clay], others soft and perishable [e.g. bamboo, wood, silk, paper].” Writings on hard surfaces are generally called inscriptions, and writings on perishable materials are usually considered books (199). Tsien explains that these two types of materials served distinct purposes: “The perishable materials, which were more convenient and sometimes less expensive, were used extensively for government documents, historical records, literary compositions, personal correspondence, and other writings of daily use. The permanent materials…were used for making commemorative or other inscriptions of more lasting value. The former were intended primarily for horizontal communication among contemporaries and the latter for vertical communication across generations.” including spirits or ancestors, as well as sons and grandsons; however, there were deviations from these general norms (199-200). Tsien goes on the describe methods of writing and duplication, styles of Chinese script, and the growth of vocabulary which occurred with the evolution of Chinese writing (202-3).