Help With Oracle Bone

Aug 2019
Airway Heights Washington USA
Hi all !

I have been trying to decipher this oracle bone. This particular bone has been written about online a little. They all say the pictogram scripts revolve around a supernova event 1300 BC. I only have a couple of books that have been using. One called Mao King Ting. It is about the pictograms on a bronze vessel. The second book, much more helpful is called, The origins of Chinese Characters. A third book on the way is called, These Bones Shall Rise Again, but will not be here until Aug 27.

So far I can see nothing on this oracle bone specifically about a supernova. It seems people are using the group of three circles pictogram as meaning supernova. I don't think that is correct..

Any way, the pic below shows what I have come up with so far. The pictograms outlined in green are the ones I could sure use some help with. Maybe they will be in the book that is in the mail.

The only lines that are making some sense are the last two rows.. One does talk about "great constellation or stars above men standing on land, mountain" . At least that is what I am getting.

The last row seems in part to be , "the seventh day, fourth lunar month/moon". I do not know the second pictogram from the top, or the last one that I can only guess is either a season, or the king of the period this bone was inscribed.

In a nutshell, any help in completing the entire event/story line would be greatly appreciated. I think the first two rows are not making much sense and may not help in the end, but the last two rows would give me the most relevant storyline .

Going to have this oracle bone painted, and would like to have a calligrapher add some seal script to the painting describing the story line as best as possible.

Sep 2019
From what I’ve read, it seems that the common translation for this is:

- "On the seventh day of the month, a chi-szu day, a great new star appeared in company with Antares."

It looks like this translation is based on these 2 lines:

- 七日巳干月?

- 出新大品丛火

First off, you seem to interpret ? as 四 or fourth, but I imagine this could actually be a variation of the character酉, which would make it the eight month, or perhaps rooster-month.

Secondly, the supernova theory seems to be based on the combination of 新大品 with 新 as new. Academics however, have already assumed that 新 may actually carry the possible meaning of “offering” instead. To me, the glyph also seems to represent tools of sacrifice in its original archaic meaning.

Official translations see 出 as “to appear”, however it’s hypothesized the glyph actually represents "to stepping out of/leaving/going out of a cave" with the meaning of "to exit". However, as you leave a cave, I suppose from the other perspective you would also appear from something you exit, so these opposite meanings are especially tricky when trying to interpret this.

品 seems to be the star, indeed it could be an archaic variation of晶, however, it would appear more logical to me for this to represent the 3 bright stars of Orion's belt (Alnitak/Alnilam/Mintaka). According to the official translation 火 seems to represent Antares, the burning, fiery star. If memory serves, this was indeed the most important star during the Shang period.

Anyways, to me these 2 lines could alternatively read:

- "On the seventh day (namely) snake-day (of the) rooster-month, (We shall) go out to sacrifice (to the) great three stars (that are) moving along with Antares.

As 从seems to represent 2 people walking in the same direction. Rather than standing on land, I’d interpret this as movement in 1 line 丛.


Ad Honorem
Apr 2013
it appears this bone is controversial in academics and even the debate smear out from the academic sphere. some reasonably argues it should not read from left to right.
however, no explanation is well accepted so far.

so i don't think forum discussion would be enough to contribute on understanding this bone, since it involves all kinds of knowledge, such as characters, shang history, astronomy........
why not just leave it to academic conferences.
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Ad Honorem
Oct 2016
An interesting thread ; it reveals similar dynamics at work to the one re ; 'rock art' interpretations at Gobekli Tepe and a 'comet strike' .
Sep 2019
Either way, another objection I have with the official translation is that it presents the information carved into this bone, as a historical record of an event that has happened, and something that needed to be recorded for further generations, rather than an act of pyromancy.

Unless this would be interpreted as an astronomical event, described for the purpose of defining the frame of time at that time, in connection with something that needed to be foretold, or a question that needed divine guidance by fire, I don’t see how this would work in a non-pyromantic context. It all depends on the context of this translation I guess.

Besides this, I have a correction to make, as 干 should be 子:

- 七日巳子月?

- (出)新大品丛火

And 出 doesn’t seem to be the correct one either. I’ll look into this another time.