Academia Sinica and the National Cultural Association will apply for a place among the Memory of the World heritages for “the oracle bone inscriptions preserved at the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica.” This will be done in order to protect and publicize the important and invaluable heritage and cultural memory embodied in the oracle bone inscriptions.
The Yin Ruins oracle bone inscriptions are the earliest form of Chinese writing known to the world at present. Moreover, of all scripts used by ancient world civilizations, oracle bone inscriptions are the source of the only writing system still in wide use today. Viewed from a broader perspective, it is clear that oracle bone inscriptions are not only a Chinese cultural heritage as other Asian nations, such as Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, also use Chinese characters to some extent. The oracle bone inscriptions represent the origins of Chinese writing culture, and are extremely worthy of the global community’s appreciation.
The oracle bone inscriptions discovered at the Yin Ruins are archaeological relics which date back over 3,000 years. Extremely brittle and fragile, these oracle bones cannot be reproduced, recreated, or copied. As the ancient source of Chinese characters and the only available written documentation of Yin-Shang history, the importance and value of the inscriptions cannot be overstated.
The oracle bones held at the IHP were all discovered during scientific excavations conducted by archaeologists between 1928 and 1937. Complete excavation reports were compiled during these excavations, along with on-site photos and documentaries, and the oracle bones collected from these excavations have been organized and studied by generations of scholars and experts. Consequently, the historical authenticity of the oracle bone collections is beyond doubt.
A large number of highly-valued and unique oracle bones are held at the IHP, and this institute has become one of the most important centers in the world for the excavation, research, and preservation of the oracle bones. Some of the oracle bones have even been named “national treasures” or “important relics,” and have been recognized and accepted on the national level.
The IHP has done its utmost to preserve and popularize all of its artifacts and documents. As we live in a digital age, the IHP has digitized images of all of its oracle bone collections, culminating in the establishment of an oracle bone digital archives database. Through this database, internet users across the globe may familiarize themselves with this world civilization heritage.