History KS2: How the Shang Invented Writing

Historian Michael Wood describes the discovery of Shang tombs in Anyang, where archaeologists discovered cow and turtle bones with writing on, the first writing known in China.

Archaeologists today could still read the writing, as it used pictographs, where each character makes a word picture, rather than an 'English-style' alphabet.

There are thousands of pictographs in use in China. Many of the characters are very similar to those used today in China.

There are enough pictographs used and explained in telling a story about a man going fishing for his tea for you to be able to write your own story.

This short film is from the BBC series, The Story of China. A series exploring the stories, people and landscapes that have helped create China's distinctive character and genius over four thousand years.

Teacher Notes

You could ask your class:

What are Oracle Bones?

Can they find out what the Shang used them for?

Why is it so important to have written evidence about an Ancient Civilisation?

What does written evidence add to our knowledge of the Shang?

How similar is Shang writing to our own?

Use the pictograms at the end of the story to produce your own short story - Shang style.

Curriculum Notes

This short film is relevant for teaching history at Key Stage 2 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and at Second Level in Scotland.

More from The Story of China

How People Were Created
How Humans Got Fire
How King Yu Controlled the Flood
How the Early Chinese Made Bronzes
How We Know About the Shang
The Rise and Fall of the Shang