analyzing the content, style, technique, colour and preservation status of the cliff carvings, and by comparing them with other excavated relics, Zhou explained. But Chen Zhaofu argued that most of the carvings would be about 3,000-year-old. Because they mostly reflected the culture of the Xiongnu or the nomadic Hun people during the 3rd and 2nd centuries BC, Chen explained. He also stressed that all the arguments needed to be proved by modern technology and in-depth research.
Xinmin Weekly: So is there in fact any link between the Damaidi rock carvings and the origin of Chinese characters?
Mr Tang: Since we've confirmed what era the Damaidi rock carvings come from, we can say even more conclusively that they have absolutely no connection to the form taken by Chinese characters. Even if the Damaidi carvings did date from a period much earlier than oracle bone script, we couldn't say that the two were related because they resemble one another on some level, even if the symbols in many rock carvings do have semantic or ideographic functions. The biggest difference between the two is that the rock carvings have no phonetic function. The symbols have no fixed or regular meanings within an ideographic system. Moreover, characters are an ideographic representation of language designed to communicate, a kind of specialist tool, but rock carvings more usually have a religious ritual function. Some specific definitions have been give to certain of the Damaidi carvings, such as [giving one the purported meaning] "submission to rule," but these are guesses based on post hoc interpretations drawn from their form. Even if they are in fact correct, it doesn't mean you can link the carvings at Damaidi to the origins of Chinese characters or other writing. And even if there is a link between the two, this kind of inductive reasoning based on experiential evidence is not scientific.
Looked at in epistemological or anthropological terms, they may be a link between rock carvings and oracle bone script, as the two both have ideographic functions; but in terms of archaeological or cultural typology there is no possibility the one is the source of the other, as they belong to two completely separate cultural systems. To use the biological terms, they belong to different species. This is the same principle that says we modern humans are not the descendants on Neanderthals, even though our ancestors were similar to Neanderthals in many ways. We shouldn't be discussing the origins of Chinese characters in epistemological or anthropological terms, because research couched in such generalities is not only of no help in discussing the origins of an ethnic or regional culture, it in fact makes the focal point of the issue less clear. If we base a study of the origins of Chinese characters on this kind of erroneous methodology, it is my contention that we shall see no [worthwhile] results or progress.
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