Three Research Models for Studying the Origin and Development of Chinese Characters
The origin and evolution of Chinese characters (hanzi, 漢字), the reasons for its stability and longevity, and its future are some core issues in the study of Chinese characters. We have proposed three research models to tackle these problems: (1). Taking advantage of the logographic nature of Chinese characters, we have used a mathematical model to show that the Chinese writing should have already existed no later than 2100 BCE. (2). We have adopted the “funnel model” of protein folding in biochemistry to illustrate the landscape at the beginning of Chinese writing and how it evolved into a stable writing system. (3). We have proposed an ecological model for studying the past and future of Chinese characters. Based on these models, together with systematic archaeological study of pottery inscriptions and DNA analysis of human skeletons unearthed from various neolithic cultural sites, this article discuss specific issues related to the genesis, the longevity and the future growth of Chinese characters in the context of ecological model of Chinese characters. Particularly, how Chinese characters can be prepared to respond to future challeneges in a world of globalization and dataism.