Chinese oracle bone inscriptions were added to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register on Sunday, according to a report from the People's Daily.
Chinese oracle bones were pieces of turtle plastron or ox scapula that were used as part of divination rites in ancient China during the late Shang Dynasty (C.1600-1046BC). As questions asked by diviners were carved on many of the oracle bones, these inscriptions are the earliest extant examples of Chinese writing. As the ancestor of modern Chinese characters, oracle bones bear the history and culture of the Chinese nation.
"Following the steps of Yinxu [the remains of the ancient capital of the late Shang Dynasty], oracle bone inscriptions are the next item to be added to the UNESCO list," Shang Hongjun, the vice president of the Yin-shang Cultural Research Institution of Anyang, Central China's Henan Province, told the China News Service.
"Our culture has earned the world's recognition, which brings us both pride and responsibility."
According to Shang, the ancient capital of the Shang Dynasty was discovered in Anyang a hundred years ago, revealing the more than 3,000-year-old Yin-Shang culture to the world. In 2006, the remains of the ancient capital, known as Yinxu, were recognized as a world heritage site by UNESCO.
"Workers didn't pay much attention to the oracle bones when the site was excavated," said Shang, emphasizing that it is important that oracle bones be recognized independently from the site where they were found as they make up the core spirit of the ancient capital's culture.
Reading the inscriptions on the oracle bones is still an obstacle for archaeologists. While experts have recorded more than 5,000 characters on the 150,000 pieces of bones, less than half have had their meanings identified. To improve work in this area, the National Museum of Chinese Writing (NMCW) is offering a reward of 100,000 yuan (,000) to anyone who can identify one of the remaining unknown ancient characters.
News of the reward received more than 5 million views after it was posted on the Facebook page of China Mosaic. Many comments underneath the post for the reward reveal a strong interest in Chinese culture from overseas.