The earliest known characters ,form the oracle bone, writing "jia gu wen"during the Shang Dynasty, were written on bones and tortoise shells for divining purposes. Since they were etched into the surface the characters had a stick –like appearance. Subsequently characters were inscribed on bronzes and this bronze writing "jinwen"became more varied in its shape. Writing with a simple ink pen then became popular and the resulting "zhuan shu"or "da zhuan"characters had more rounded shapes. Around 200 B.C. China’s first emperor "Qin Shihuang"had his prime minister "Lisi"reform the characters. Many redundant characters were eliminated and the shapes of the characters were simplified and standardized. These"Xiao zhuan"characters are still carved on seals or “chops“and are often called “seal characters.”
Approximately 2000 years ago the popularization of the ink brush fundamentally altered the shape of characters, changing them from the rounded seal characters to the more angular "lishu"and then to the "kaishu"characters used for most purposes today Though convenient, the new writing styles obscured the original logic of the characters, resulting in miswriting and the creation of illogical new characters. Facing this problem, the scholar "xushen"responded with the etymological dictionary "shuo wen jie zi"based on surviving samples of earlier scripts .By explaining the underlying logic of each character, this work succeeded in stabilizing the writing of characters in forms essentially comparable to, though of slightly different shape, that the seal characters.