The National Museum of Chinese Writing announced on July 12 that they are conducting a study on oracle bones characters. People can receive up to 100,000 yuan for identifying new characters and 50,000 yuan per character for new explanations of controversial identifications.
A report by Beijing Youth Daily revealed that the reward is not easy to win. Experts have reached a bottleneck. However, with the application of new technologies, it is possible to identify more ancient characters of shell and bone writings.
According to the announcement, all domestic and international scholars, research teams, and academic institutions that have made recognized achievements in oracle bone script interpretation can participate for a chance to win. Only findings on or after October 28, 2016, are allowed.
Applicants for the reward have to write a report on their findings of oracle bone script. The report should be recommended by two senior specialists before submission. An experts committee organized by the National Planning Office of Philosophy and Social Science in China will make recommendations for the reward based on strict evaluations and identifications. The research findings and authors will receive public opinions for seven days.
According to the National Museum of Chinese Writing, the selection encourages oracle bone script researchers to explore original study results via a combination of traditional methods and modern technologies, including cloud computing and big data. The museum has the right to use all data and information of the findings submitted by the award winners.
Zhu Yanmin, a professor engaged in studies of oracle bone script and the history of the Yin and Shang dynasties at the History College at Nankai University explained that among the 5,000 characters found so far only 1,500 have been identified.
Inscriptions on tortoise shells and animal bones represent the original characters of the Chinese written language. They date back to the Shang Dynasty (1600-1046 BC).
Identifying oracle bone characters is of great significance in historical studies. “For instance, a newly recognized noun or a verb will bring vitality to a large amount of oracle bone scripts, which will help us understand more about the history,” said Zhu.