We know that ancient Chinese articles were written vertically. Some scholars believe that this was mainly because the ancient writing materials were mostly bamboo strips and wooden strips, and the characters were written vertically, and then arranged horizontally in parallel to form long scrolls. This was convenient for reading by unfolding with the left and right hands. Until the appearance of paper books, this layout habit has been passed down.
Personally, I believe that the rule of writing ancient articles vertically is not because of the appearance of bamboo slips. First of all, bamboo is not produced in the north, and the influx of bamboo products into the north happened several years later. The origin of Chinese culture is generally believed to be in the Yellow River Basin. In fact, in the early oracle bone inscriptions, the characters were written vertically. Even if bamboo slips were used, they were not necessarily written vertically, and they were written in reverse. It is also possible to write horizontally on bamboo slips, and it is very fluent. Even if written vertically, it can be reversed. It does not have uniqueness.
Another example is the ancient Mongolian script. Although it is an alphabetic script, it is also written vertically, starting from the right side of the paper, forming a mirror image relationship with Chinese writing. The origin of Mongolian script was after the Han Dynasty, which was after the appearance of paper, and it was not written on bamboo slips. It still used vertical writing, influenced by the format of Chinese writing. The Han people regard the left as superior and start writing from the left side of the paper. The Mongolians regard the right as superior and start writing from the right side of the paper. This further proves that vertical writing is not influenced by writing on bamboo slips.
Regarding the origin of the format of vertical writing, countless scholars in history have conducted extensive research, but they seem to have overlooked one point: words are carriers of information.
Let's consider it from the perspective of ancient people. First of all, there were no words at the beginning, and people in ancient times communicated information through language. Language communication has certain limitations, so later they learned to use drawings to convey information. A simple picture. Symbols representing simple things or objects are marked on the picture. These symbols are equivalent to simple sketches of things. They became ancient pictographic characters. The pictures corresponded to the surrounding environment and had directional characteristics. The problem is that directional pictures have directionality. If you rotate a picture, the indicated direction will be different. This requires directional pictures to be drawn according to certain rules.
Ancient people called the direction where the sun rises the east, and the sun rises in the east in the morning and sets in the west in the evening. The rising and setting of the sun from east to west is just used as the timeline and orientation axis on the map. In terms of time and orientation, the east is the starting point. It is what we commonly call the front and back. Ancient people applied it to writing, and also wrote according to the format of front and back.
At the same time, our ancestors established various rules that cannot be violated. Otherwise, taboos will be committed.
The Book of Changes - Shuo Gua says: "The sage faces the world, facing the light and governing." Therefore, the south is the front, the north is the back, and the east and west are left and right. This also indicates that the house where the sage lives faces north and faces south.
Ancient people respected the sun and the east. The east is on the left side of the sage, and the left is respected, which is actually the east. The saying of "front left and back right" has started at this time and has been passed down to the present.
The order of time, the age of people, the size of things, etc. are all related to respect and inferiority. People, things, and events that come before in time or are more respected are placed in front. In writing, words composed of two related characters are also combined according to the above rules. For example, "spring and autumn," "morning and evening," "sovereign and minister," "father and son," "heaven and earth," "left and right" (left first and right later), etc., cannot be written in reverse. If they are written as "evening and morning," "minister and sovereign," "son and father," etc., it is absolutely not allowed.
When we play cards, the person on the left draws and plays the first card. At formal banquets, after the host takes the most honorable seat, the position to the left of the host becomes respected. Because of the male superiority and female inferiority in ancient times, there is the saying of "man on the left and woman on the right." During the early morning court meetings in ancient times, the emperor sat in the main seat, civil officials were on the left, and military generals were on the right. From a distance, it looks like a couplet: "The literary minister stands on the left, securing the country with ingenious strategies; the military general stands on the right, establishing the national treasure in his hands."
The rule of "front (respect) left and back (inferior) right" is used in writing, so the beginning of the article must be on the left side of the paper, and the end of the article must be on the right side of the paper. Here, the left side refers to the left side of the paper, which is the right side of the writer. As I mentioned earlier, words are carriers of information, and paper is equivalent to a blank directional map. The position of the words on the paper corresponds to the position in reality. The houses where the sages lived faced north and faced south, and the orientation of the paper was the same. It is equivalent to the orientation of the front door of your home. Therefore, the upper part of the Spring Festival couplet is on the left side of the door, and the lower part is on the right side. The upper part of the couplet that you see outside the door is on your right side, so some people say that ancient people started writing from the right side, which is from the perspective of the writer. In fact, it starts from the left side of the paper. Just like two people facing each other, the left side of the other person is your right side. The image of yourself in the mirror is reversed left and right.
By now, you should understand that the paper used by ancient people to write articles had directionality. Ancient people wrote according to the rules of east to west, left to east and right to west. There are two types of writing: horizontal writing, such as place names, shop names, banners, etc., and vertical writing in the case of line breaks. This is because when writing horizontally, it is possible for both ends of the article to be on the left side. Another reason is that ancient people regarded the east as superior and the west as inferior, that is, the left as superior and the right as inferior. This made it necessary to write people's names starting from the most respected person, strictly following the order of respect and inferiority. The name of a person written on the left side of the paper is definitely more honorable than the name written on the right side. If the names are written horizontally and need to be wrapped to the next line, the names at the back will be written on the left side. This was absolutely impossible during a time when the hierarchical system of respect and inferiority was very strict. Vertical writing avoids this possibility.
Therefore, the format of vertical writing in ancient China was influenced by the ideological concepts of the people at that time. According to the principles of east to west, left to east and right to west, and the rule of respect left and inferior right, in the case of line breaks, only vertical writing is the unique writing format. The ideological system of respect left and inferior right consolidated the rules of vertical writing.