I have seen some old Chinese books. The words flowed from top to bottom on the page and there was no punctuation.

  • How did readers know when the sentences began and ended?
  • Were any older forms of punctuation used then?
  • When was punctuation introduced into books?

1 Answer 1


There were no punctuation marks such as comma in ancient Chinese writings. It's stated in "Punctuations in Chinese Language" and in this forum's thread, "Punctuation Marks in Ancient Written Chinese", where there are two links to some ancient writings. As it's said there, having no punctuation at all, ancient scholars knew the meaning thanks to some structure and "rhythm" in the writing, but I haven't found any official source for this statement.

Regarding its introduction, according to Wikipedia, it seems that punctuation in Chinese became a part of its system in the 20th Century, so it's very recent.

The first book to be printed with modern punctuation was "Outline of the History of Chinese Philosophy (中國哲學史大綱)" by Hu Shi (胡適) in 1919.

  • 1
    Have there been any changes to the structure and rhythm of the writing due to the introduction of punctuation?
    – Village
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 12:29
  • I suppose so, but that would require a whole new research in the matter, I guess.
    – Alenanno
    Commented Dec 24, 2011 at 12:34

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