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Chief Coordinator: Shih-hsuan Yen

The Chinese Characters Section was set up along with the establishment of the Institute of History and Philology (IHP), Academia Sinica. Reorganization took place the following year, with the said section and the Mandarin Chinese Language Section being combined to form the Second Department. This department had long been devoted to linguistics studies and TUNG Tso-pin, the noted oracle bone scholar, was affiliated with the Archaeology Department. As such, it took decades before a section dedicated to philology was set up. In 1958, the Oracle Bone Research Program was created and renamed the Philology Department in 1990 to extend beyond oracle bone studies and incorporate IHP colleagues’ wide range of research areas such as studies of bronze inscriptions in the Western and Eastern Zhou Dynasties and writings in the Qin and Han Dynasties.

In the earlier days, the Philology Department pivoted its work on oracle bone and related studies. As a leader in the field, the department’s oracle bone research had become one of the IHP’s distinctive accomplishments. Over the years, the department has published many important publications, including The Inscriptions on Oracle Bones from Hsiao-t’un Part I and its sequels, The Inscriptions on Oracle Bones from Hsiao-t’un Part II and Supplementary to The Inscriptions on Oracle Bones from Hsiao-t’un Part II; three volumes of restoration work on rejoining broken and scattered oracle bone fragments under the title The Inscriptions on Oracle Bones from Hsiao-t’un Part III; as well as annotation of the abovementioned works under the titles Annotation to the Inscriptions on Oracle Bones from Hsiao-t’un Part I and Annotation to the Inscriptions on Oracle Bones. In addition, the publication of A Supplement to the Annotations of Bronze Inscriptions by Chairperson Chou Fa-kao, who is not affiliated with the Philology Department, is considered an accomplishment by the said Department.

Over the past two decades, the Department has published the result of sorting out and analyzing oracle bones, including Rejoined Oracle Bone Inscriptions (1999), Rejoined Oracle Bone Inscriptions II (2004), Oracle Bones from the Institute of History and Philology (2009), Studies of Fascicle Three of Inscriptions of the Yin Ruins (2010) and New Reproductions and Annotations of Fascicle Three of Inscriptions from the Yin Ruins (2017). Publications dedicated to studying oracle bone characters included Oracle Bone Characters (2012). In 2013, the Department began working with the National Museum of History to sort out and study oracle bones housed at the latter. Publications on sorting out bronze vessel materials include Compilation of Newly-Collected Yin and Zhou Bronze Inscriptions and Vessels (2006) and Shang and Zhou Bronzeware Unearthed in Daijiawan and Shigushan, Baoji (2015). Members of the Department also participate in the sorting out and publication of the IHP’s Han slips from Edsen-gol, having achieved significant accomplishment in their restoration. At the same time, they continue to create philology databases, including Digital Archives of Bronze Images and Inscriptions, Pre-Qin Bronze Patterns, and Lexicon of Pre-Qin Oracle, Bronze Inscriptions and Bamboo Scripts. In addition to providing services to the academic community, these databases are bringing a whole new impact on the study of unearthed cultural artefacts, ancient writings and history.

New sources for the study of ancient characters are being discovered every year, and relevant publications are mostly about the analysis and interpretation of newly excavated oracle bones, bronze inscriptions, as well as Chu and Qin bamboo and wooden slips. The Philology Department not only focuses its current research on the interpretation and annotation of newly excavated pre-Qin, Qin and Han bamboo slips but is expanding its discussion and research on the collation of classical texts, old Chinese, paleography, occult arts, and societies from Qin through Han Dynasties. In 2006, the Philology held the First Annual Conference on Paleography and Early Chinese History to showcase its tradition of combining the study of ancient characters and ancient history. Conference proceedings were published as The Paleography and Early Chinese History. To date, the Conference has been held five times and five volumes of proceedings have been published. The Department believes these efforts will encourage more interests in the study of ancient history through ancient characters and in turn lead to more historical discoveries.