The “graphic design” for 旅 ‘troops’ and 車 ‘chariot’ in

oracle-bone and bronze inscriptions

Chrystelle Maréchal    Ken-ichi Takashima

Abstract:This paper argues that there were in the minds of the creators of Chinese characters what we refer to as “graphic designs” (abbreviated as “GD”—for the other acronyms used hereinafter, see “Symbols and Abbreviations of the Frequently Used Terms and the Authors’ Names” at the end of the paper). The GD is generally inseparable from the underlying lexeme, and this paper is a case study of the two, and other related, words, in connection specifically with their graphic representations. The GD for the OBI graphs,and,which appear to be pictographs, is as simple as the UM of the word chē 車 ‘chariot’, namely, “chariot/wheel”. Its presumed sound*k-hla~*ka-hla—and the meaning may not have participated in any WF in Shāng Chinese because it was a loan word from an IE language and was not yet integrated in the contemporary lexicological system. A basis for this is that another reading  , assumed as *ka~*kəlja, had not yet developed. The simplicity of the GD and UM of , however, is in contrast with the complexity of its origins and its uses: (1) what is the phonetic in lǚ  , and in BI graphs like , ,? If all these write the word 旅, a question arises: which (pre-)OC form, chē/*k-hla~*ka-hla or/*ka~*kəlja, was original? We have suggested that the latter arose after the original, chē/*k-hla~*ka-hla, was sufficiently circulated and came into being as a result of the mono-syllabification of *ka-hla 車; (2) since many IE languages have the initial k- for 車 ‘wheel/chariot’, reconstructing the pre-initial *k- for this Chinese loan word makes sense; (3) we have narrowed down the introduction of the chariot and its word into China to ca. 1200 BC, during the reign of King Wǔ Dīng 武丁 (ca. 1230–1171 BC); (4) we have also tried to answer the question: can we account for the frequent use in the late Shāng-early Zhōu BI of the 車 element, and its disappearance after early Western Zhōu? This question has taken us to examine the history of warfare, the ancient industry of chariot and wheel making, and the utilitarian and symbolic value of the chariot in ancient China.