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Friday, June 09, 2000, updated at 08:40(GMT+8)

Typographic Printing Originates in China: Scholars

Two Chinese linguists have recently found new evidence to ascertain that the typographic printing technique was originated exactly from China.

Shi Jinbo, Chief of the Western Xia Culture Research Center under the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (CASS), recently found a block-printing edition of Buddhist Script in Western Xia language of the middle age of the 12th century, which is believed the oldest book of typographic printing.

The script, now preserved in Russia, "is the earliest existing copy of the hard-clay type printing which was 300 years older than the earliest copy of its kind in Western countries," Shi said.

Meanwhile, another CASS research fellower Yasin Ashuri found 960 wooden types of ancient Huihe characters which were dated back to 800 years ago at the Asian Arts Museum of Guimet in Paris.

The treasured types were transported in 1908 by a French Paul Pelliot from the Cave Library of the Mogao Grottos in Dunhuang, northwest Gansu Province.

As one of the four great inventions made by ancient Chinese people, the printing technique with movable types has been regarded as an extremely important advancement in the world history.

In his well-known book of Mengxi Bitan, the Notes in Dream Pool Garden, Shen Kuo, a scientist in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), described the movable-type printing technique and its inventor Bi Sheng of the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127).

However, without early material evidence for the great invention, some scholars in the world challenged the theory of China's origination of the technique.

The latest find of movable types in the Western Xia language in the similar age of the Song provides solid proof for early development and spread of the technique in China.

Located on the route of the Silk Road, the Huihe Regime witnessed economic and cultural exchanges between China and Western countries.

Different from the types invented by Bi Sheng on the basis of words, the ancient Huihe people learned to use types on the basis of alphabets and others, Yasin said.

Johann Gutenberg, a German printer who was reputed as the first European to print with movable type, produced the first book, the Bible, printed from movable type in 1456 at Mainz in Germany.

The China Social Sciences Documentation Publishing House has published The Invention and Early Dissemination of China's Type Printing, containing all the latest achievements made by Shi and Yasin.

Shi Shuqing, Vice-Chairman of the National Committee for Cultural Relics Authentication and Preservation, regards the academic book as a new milestone in the research of its kind.

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Two Chinese linguists have recently found new evidence to ascertain that the typographic printing technique was originated exactly from China.

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