Oracle bone inscriptions, carvings or writings on tortoise shells and animal scapulae, are known as the earliest mature writing system in China. They were mainly used for divination, while a few of them were to keep records of events happened in the late Shang Dynasty (~1300 BC - 1050 BC).

After the first discovery of oracle bones in 1899, scholars began to collect and study them. However, it was only until the establishment of the Institute of History and Philology (IHP) in 1928 that the researchers began to engage in large scale scientific excavation. Excavations at Hsiao-t’un Village, Henan Province, China alone brought forth about more than 25,000 pieces of oracle bones. IHP is internationally perceived as the institution that has the largest collection of fine oracle bone remains.

The oracle bones held by the Institute provide an invaluable resource to the study of early Chinese writing and Shang military affairs, government, religion, history, and culture. Before oracle bones were known, literary records alone were insufficient to answer many questions concerning the Shang dynasty, but through the study of the oracle bones from the Ruins of Yin, the historicity of the Shang Dynasty has been proven and many questions are being answered.

In this special exhibition, we choose ten most representative objects, including human skull, inscribed bovid talus, the only  two remaining pieces of inscribed deer skull in the world, a rare tortoise shell with hand-writings, and the famous oracle bone that has recently appeared in the text book and on the stamps.
  • Oracle Bone (Turtle Plastron) Ping-pien 247

    Oracle Bone (Turtle Plastron) Ping-pien 247 This oracle bone dated back to the reign of King Wu Ting. The inquiry was about the birth of a child to Fu Hao, the wife of King Wu Ting. It predicted the fortune and gender of the baby based on the child's expected date of birth.
  • Oracle Bone (Turtle Plastron) I-pien 0778

    Oracle Bone (Turtle Plastron) I-pien 0778 Ink remains from the Shang Dynasty. The divination asked whether or not it would rain on the next day, the day Ping.
  • Oracle Bone (Turtle Plastron) I-pien 5867+8202

    Oracle Bone (Turtle Plastron) I-pien 5867+8202 This is an example of an oracle bone upon which graphs were written with a brush before engraving. The complete divination should be: “On the day ting-wei, diviner Yung永 questioned: will it rain from today until the day hsin-hai”. The preface “On the day ting-wei, the diviner Yung” was engraved on the back side.
  • Oracle Bone(Turtle plastron)Ping-pien 069

    Oracle Bone(Turtle plastron)Ping-pien 069 This piece records the divination in a pair of charges : the positive and negative mode. On the day hsin-you, it was divined whether 化could defeat the  statelet. “Pin賓” is the name of the diviner.
     
  • Oracle Bone (Turtle Plastron) I-pien 0867

    Oracle Bone (Turtle Plastron)  I-pien 0867 The divination of a paired charges questioned whether there would be a good harvest.
  • Inscribed Bovid Talus I-pien 8688

    Inscribed Bovid Talus  I-pien 8688 An inscription recording a sacrifice offered to Ta-I by the King of Shang.
  • Inscribed Bovid Scapula Chia-pien 3333/3361

    Inscribed Bovid Scapula    Chia-pien 3333/3361 Divination concerning the holding of a sacrificial ritual at "I Ching" using three captives from the Ch'iang tribe and ten buffalos.
  • Inscribed Human Skull Chia-pien 3739

    Inscribed Human Skull Chia-pien 3739 Among all oracle bones excavated by the Institute of History and Philology at Academia Sinica, this is the only inscribed human skull which has been found. The remnants of the inscription of the character "Wu 武 " can be seen on the skull.
  • Inscribed Deer Skull Chia-pien 3940

    Inscribed Deer Skull Chia-pien 3940 It recorded the hunting by the king at Hao on his return trip from a military expedition, and indicated that a sacrifice was offered to his ancestor Wen Wu Ting. Chia-pien 3940 and 3941 are the only two remaining pieces of Inscribed deer skull in the world.
  • Inscribed Deer Skull Chia-pien 3941

    Inscribed Deer Skull Chia-pien 3941 This piece was unearthed during the third season of the Institute's excavations at Yin-hsü. Tung Tso-pin argued that the inscriptions on this deer head were carved in the tenth year of King Ti Hsin of the Shang. They recorded the hunting of  Ti Hsin.  The oracle bone inscription on the Academia Sincia emblem, representing the humanities, comes from this piece.