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The first written records appeared over 3,000 years ago during the Shang dynasty.As the language evolved over this period, the various local varieties became mutually unintelligible.In reaction, central governments have repeatedly sought to promulgate a unified standard.Scholars have attempted to reconstruct the phonology of Old Chinese by comparing later varieties of Chinese with the rhyming practice of the Classic of Poetry and the phonetic elements found in the majority of Chinese characters.
During Northern and Southern dynasties era, Middle Chinese had a number of sound changes occured.Unless otherwise specified, Chinese texts in this article are written in (Simplified Chinese/Traditional Chinese; Pinyin) format.In cases where Simplified and Traditional Chinese scripts are identical, the Chinese term is written once. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters.It can be divided into an early period, reflected by the Qieyun rime book (601 CE), and a late period in the 10th century, reflected by rhyme tables such as the Yunjing constructed by ancient Chinese philologists as a guide to the Qieyun system.Linguists have identified these sounds by comparing the categories with pronunciations in modern varieties of Chinese, borrowed Chinese words in Japanese, Vietnamese, and Korean, and transcription evidence.
Difficulties have included the great diversity of the languages, the lack of inflection in many of them, and the effects of language contact.