C.V. Starr East Asian Library
 

Oracle Bones collection, circa 1300-1050 B.C.

Summary Information

Abstract

The Oracle Bones collection comprises 128 authentic, forged, and unconfirmed pieces of ox scapula and tortoise shells, also known as oracle bones (jiagu, 甲骨), that were used as a form of divination in ancient China during the late Shang dynasty, dating from circa 1300-1050 BCE.

At a Glance

Bib ID 15618192 View CLIO record
Creator(s)
Title Oracle Bones collection, circa 1300-1050 B.C.
Physical Description 14 boxes (128 items)
Language(s) Chinese .
Access

This collection is located on-site.

Use of digitized images is recommended for this collection: 大学数字图书馆国际合作计划 CADAL Project. 甲骨数字化 Digitized Oracle Bone Collections

Please contact starr-spec@library.columbia.edu for more information.

Arrangement

Arrangement

The collection is arranged in 1 series.

Description

Scope and Contents

The Oracle Bones collection consists of 128 pieces of authentic, forged, and unconfirmed oracle bones. Also included are digitized images of the 3 pieces of oracle bones from RBML Smith Chinese Rare 39.

Using the Collection

C. V. Starr East Asian Library

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is located on-site.

Use of digitized images is recommended for this collection: 大学数字图书馆国际合作计划 CADAL Project. 甲骨数字化 Digitized Oracle Bone Collections

Please contact starr-spec@library.columbia.edu for more information.

Conditions Governing Use

Single photocopies may be made for research purposes. The C.V. Starr East Asian Library maintains ownership of the physical material only. Copyright remains with the creator and his/her heirs. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Preferred Citation

Identification of specific item; Date (if known); Oracle Bones collection; C. V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University Library.

Related Materials

Chalfant-Britton collection; C. V. Starr East Asian Library, Columbia University Library.

David Eugene Smith Chinese Rare 39; Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Columbia University Library.

Accruals

Materials may have been added to the collection since this finding aid was prepared. Contact starr@library.columbia.edu for more information.

About the Finding Aid / Processing Information

Columbia University Libraries, C. V. Starr East Asian Library

Processing Information

Unfortunately, it is not always possible to determine when each oracle bone entered the collection, which has been reorganized numerous times. Some items from the collection were surveyed by Hung-hsiang Chou 周鸿翔 in 1970s, Qi Wenxin 齐文心 in 1997, and Elizabeth Childs-Johnson 江伊莉 in 2001.

In 2015, the collection was digitized in collaboration with the Chinese Academic Digital Associative Library (CADAL) at Zhejiang University Library, using reflective transformation imaging (RTI), which captures the surface color and shape of the bone and allows users to "re-light" the bone from any direction, creating an interactive reproduction of each fragment. In preparation for the digitization, the inventory of oracle bones at C.V. Starr East Asian Librarian was created by Ria Koopmans-Debruijn. The project was completed in 2017 and the digital collection is now accessible via 大学数字图书馆国际合作计划 CADAL Project. 甲骨数字化 Digitized Oracle Bone Collections.

Finding aid created from inventory by Yingwen Huang, 2021.

Subject Headings

The subject headings listed below are found in this collection. Links below allow searches at Columbia University through the Archival Collections Portal and through CLIO, the catalog for Columbia University Libraries, as well as ArchiveGRID, a catalog that allows users to search the holdings of multiple research libraries and archives.

All links open new windows.

Genre/Form

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
oracle bone script Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
oracle bones Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

Subject

Heading "CUL Archives:"
"Portal"
"CUL Collections:"
"CLIO"
"Nat'l / Int'l Archives:"
"ArchivedGRID"
Chinese language -- Writing -- Jia gu style Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Columbia University Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Oracle bones -- China Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID
Oracle bones -- China -- Anyang Xian Portal CLIO ArchiveGRID

History / Biographical Note

Biographical / Historical

The collection contains 128 oracle bones donated to the C.V. Starr East Asian Library. The donors include: Ernest Ketcham Smith and Grace Orral Goodrich (spouse of Ernest Ketcham Smith, sister of Luther Carrington Goodrich); James H. Ingram; Cyrus H. Peake; Frank H. Chalfant and Roswell S. Britton; William W. Rockwell; Jeanette Monroe Bassett and Ellis Monroe (children of Paul Monroe of Teachers College); William Hung 洪業.

Most of the oracle bones came from the Chalfant-Britton Collection were later identified to be forgeries. Some genuine inscribed bones mainly came through the Ernest Ketcham Smith collection in the 1930s, which originally included a total of approximately 62 pieces with two broken pieces matched and combined, reducing it to 61 pieces. Unfortunately, the collection has been organized numerous times, it is not always possible to determine when each oracle bone entered the collection and their provenance.

For additional information regarding the collection, please see:

Baughman, Roland (editor). Our Growing Collections. Columbia Library Columns 1(2): 22–26.

Goodrich, L. Carrington. Chinese oracle bones. Columbia Library Columns, 8(3), May 1959: 11-14.

Tong, Te-Kong. The Tortoise Shell Which Set Off a Mighty Chain Reaction. Columbia Library Columns, 16(1967): 11-18.

美国所藏甲骨录/周鸿翔编著. Oracle bone collections in the United States / by Hung-hsiang Chou, 1976

Smith, Adam. Chapter 7: The Ernest K. Smith Collection of Shang Divination Inscriptions at Columbia University and the Evidence for Scribal Training at Anyang. In Rutz M, Kersel MM. Archaeologies of Text : Archaeology, Technology, and Ethics. Oxbow Books; 2014.