How to Read an Oracle Bone from Huayuanzhuang East Pit H3

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This paper focuses on the work habits and motives of the Shang recordkeepers who wrote the divination accounts discovered in 1991 in Pit 3 at Huayuanzhuang East. These scribes, who worked under the patronage of a head of one of the princely households, collaborated with diviners sanctioned under the same mandate and the two professional groups developed and employed technologies to micromanage their workloads economically and to do their jobs coherently and efficiently. The scribes who produced the divination accounts on this homogenous and unified collection of shells and bones demonstrated accurate divination recordkeeping and displayed a unique competency and innovation in how these specialized records were designed, written out, and formally presented. More crucially, the orientation of the divination accounts indicates a control of the materials, attests to scribal literacy, and implies that they were written to be read and consulted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)39-90
Number of pages52
JournalBulletin of the Jao Tsung-I Academy of Sinology
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2020

User-Defined Keywords

  • Shang recordkeeping
  • professional work habits and motives
  • oracle bone divination
  • literacy in the ancient world


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