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Slipping into history

Updated: 2023-03-31 05:48 ( China Daily )
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The Juyan wooden slips on display that record bureaucratic minutiae of the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

With the improvement of technology, scholars now have access to clearer photos of the slips, and have started projects reorganizing them, he adds.

An exhibition on Juyan slips, organized by the Gansu Jiandu Museum and the National Library of China, opened in Beijing last month, showcasing 155 slips from the sites.

According to Zhu, the slips complement what the canonical texts of the period fail to record, correct mistakes in such books and corroborate what has been recorded in another way.

As important carriers of memory and civilization, slips have traveled through history, borne witness to the emotions and wisdom of the Chinese people, and integrated the spirit and culture of our country, said Zhu at the opening ceremony of the exhibition on Feb 15.

After papermaking was said to be invented by Cai Lun, an official in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), paper gradually took the place of wooden and bamboo slips as the main writing material, but their legacy still exerts a great influence on Chinese literacy today.

"Chinese people's habit of writing from right to left was inherited from our way of writing on wooden slips, and that was followed until the 20th century," Xiao says. "Moreover, many Chinese words we use today to describe books, like juan (a collection of volumes) and ye (page), come from the wooden slip system 2,000 years ago," Xiao says.

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