Carv­ings bear ev­i­dence of long-lost lan­guage

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By XIN­HUA in Chang­sha

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have con­firmed that in­scrip­tions found on cliffs in Hu­nan prov­ince are in the lan­guage of the Miao eth­nic group, which to­day is only spo­ken as one of China’s many eth­nic lan­guages.

Com­pre­hen­sive re­search at more than 200 cliff carv­ing sites since 2010 — along two river val­leys in the Chengbu Miao eth­nic county in west­ern Hu­nan — con­cluded that the char­ac­ters and sym­bols in­scribed on the cliffs are words and even sto­ries that may record the life, agri­cul­ture and re­li­gious be­liefs of the Miao peo­ple.

The writ­ten lan­guage is known of only through Miao folk songs and folk­lore. The char­ac­ters are sim­i­lar to Chi­nese seal char­ac­ters, but are min­gled with other sym­bols, pos­si­bly pic­tograms. Ar­chae­ol­o­gists said the char­ac­ters were carved on the cliffs dur­ing the Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1912) dy­nas­ties.

The pro­vin­cial bureau of cul­tural relics has pro­posed set­ting up a Miao lan­guage re­search in­sti­tute spe­cial­iz­ing in de­ci­pher­ing and pro­tect­ing the lan­guage.

The Miao are among China’s 55 eth­nic groups, and well known for elab­o­rately em­broi­dered silk gar­ments, and com­plex multi-tier sil­ver head­dresses and neck­laces nor­mally worn by women.

Tourism in Miao re­gions has ex­ploded in re­cent years, with tourists at­tracted by the beauty of their wooden dwellings and the fla­vors of their dis­tinc­tive food, as well as their tra­di­tional clothes and hand­i­crafts.

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