Wood slips

The historian Edouard Chavannes believed that this slip was written by a schoolboy. It is a writing exercise. The schoolboy has copied out a section of a very famous book in ancient China.

When relating large pieces of information, wooden slips were often used. These were probably an early version of books or pamphlets. They were used for writing literary or philosophical works, information about medicine, divination and military strategy.

For longer texts, a wooden strip would have been tied up to other slips. The series of strips could be rolled up and this meant they were easy to carry. If what was written on the strips was confidential the owner could tie the slips with cord and seal it with wet clay.

By using ink and brush to write on the wooden slips, Chinese writing could become more expressive. The painting of the Chinese characters came to be seen as an art form - known as calligraphy.

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