Macquarie Asian Historical Research Society Seminar


  • 13/08/2013 – 6:00-7:00 PM


  • Presentation by Alan Downes (MQ PhD Candidate) – “Xixia – The Pinnacle of Human Scripts?”


Does Chinese have the most complicated script ever invented?  Not necessarily – in eleventh century North-Western China a script of even greater apparent complexity was invented by the Tanguts.  The six thousand characters have the same basic square-shape as Chinese with similar strokes, but there the similarity ends.  Almost forgotten for over five hundred years, the Russian explorer Kozlov discovered an entire library of material in the script in the early twentieth century. The fact that many of the texts are Buddhist in nature and that much of the secondary research is written in Russian adds to the mystique of this enigmatic script.  It may be that the script has an organising principle behind it, but in over a hundred years of research this has yet to be uncovered.

My presentation will commence with some background on the Tanguts and their script and research developments in the hundred years since Kozlov’s discovery.  I will then discuss a transliteration scheme I developed in my honours thesis as a convenient method for working with the script.  Finally, for all of the closet nerds out there, I will briefly outline some of the techniques from computational linguistics and machine learning that I am amassing to investigate the structure of the script (but I promise not to use calculus!).



Room: W6A 107



More Future Events


Share this Post


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>