This abstract of a proposed paper presentation was submitted to an international academic conference held in Toronto in March 2012. The proposal was not accepted.

It is therefore presented here for information, since the topic is both meaningful and worthwhile given the fact that language is the sole hallmark of humanity.
Written language is even more so.

Except for the colour highlighting, the whole text is as it was submitted in July 2011.

There has been theorising that the vertical text direction of written Chinese originated in the early Chinese people's writing on bamboo strips the narrowness and verticality of which dictated a vertical text progression. This reasoning is equivalent to saying that our feet have evolved into their present shape because there were shoes and boots that fit them well. Simply untenable, is it not?


In searching for the reasons for the vertical text of the Chinese, an invention which has influenced Japanese, Korean and possibly other East Asian scripts such as Mongolian and Manchu, the ideas of philosopher and aesthetician Li Zehou 李澤厚 and calligrapher Ishikawa Kyūyō 石川九楊 probably can offer some insights.

Web display
The text above is from the afterword written by Ssu-ma Ch‘ien (Sima Qian) in his Shi ji (1st century BCE, partial translation published as Records of the Grand Historian), probably the most well-known and most important historical writing of China.


Homeward bound

From Louis Chor The Gardener, January 2012. Enriched October 2020.