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The King’s Menagerie: Animals in Oracle Bone Inscriptions

Exhibition: The King’s Menagerie: Animals in Oracle Bone Inscriptions 

Exhibition Date: 2020/08/22- 

Exhibition Room: 1st Floor Oracle Bone Room, Museum of the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica 

There are no pictographs in oracle bone inscriptions more vivid than those formed of animal shapes. The current exhibition features animal scripts and paintings in oracle bone inscriptions, such as pigs, dogs, buffalos, goats, elephants, horses, deer, tigers, turtles, snakes, pheasants, and dragons. There are mythical creatures and actual species including domesticated and wild animals, which could be kept as livestock, used as sacrifices, or they may simply be pests. These creatures subsequently become synecdoches that refer to names of people, places, or meteorological phenomena, thereby engendering a whole host of lexicons. On oracle bones, the people in the Shang period recorded their ecological observations and applied their knowledge of nature to comprehend the complicated human world and associated abstractions. Walking into the Shang kings’ menagerie is like witnessing in person human-animal interactions against the backdrop of more than three millennia ago. 


Published on 2020-11-20