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Bamboo books: from 1500 BC

An indigenous plant in China, the bamboo, proves as convenient a writing material as papyrus in Egypt. Chinese characters at this early period are written in vertical columns, so a thin strip of bamboo is ideal for a single column. To create a longer document, two lines of thread link each bamboo strip to its neighbour. The modern Chinese character for a book evolves from a pictogram of bamboo strips threaded together.

Bamboo books survive from as early as about 400 BC. The records indicate that they were in use at least 1000 years earlier, in the Shang dynasty.


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