One positive is that modern Chinese people can read and understand Chinese text from practically every dynasty in history.
One misconception of non-Chinese speakers is that older forms of Chinese script such as oracle bone script, seal script, clerical script, and regular script are different writing systems that evolved from one another. That’s not the case, they’re quite frankly, just different fonts of the same script. Even traditional and simplified Chinese aren’t really different systems; they’re no different from upper and lower case Latin letters (and believe it or not, traditional Chinese is still used in mainland China for titles of magazines, books, and films, as if they’re bolded versions of simplified).
Mainland Chinese magazines about Chinese fashion; notice how the big titles are traditional Chinese while the rest are simplified
What does this mean? This means modern Chinese can read and interpret Chinese texts from over 3000 years ago… as long as those texts are written in modern Chinese character “font”.
For example, here is an oracle bone with oracle bone scripts carved on it. The highlighted section can be completely written in any form of Chinese, including modern simplified Chinese, as seen below (with added punctuation for easier reading):
Divination crack on Guǐsì (day 30th): “Within the ten-day week, there will be no calamity.” The King prognosticated: “This seems to be an omen for future misfortune.”
On Jiǎwǔ (day 31st), the King went out in chase of rhinoceros. The minor official’s chariot broke, which caused the horses to fall and overturned the King’s chariot. Prince Zi Yāng also fell.
Can any regular Chinese speaker understand the above text? Absolutely not, unless they have proper education. Just like how a regular English speaker can’t understand Shakespeare without proper education. But the fact that we can read this text from over 3000 years ago with little or no translation already showcases the power of Chinese characters.
Mind you, this is from the first Chinese dynasty with historical evidence. The above oracle bone dates to King Wǔ Dīng of Shāng dynasty, who was contemporary to the rising Olmec of Central America and the legendary Trojan War in Greece.
In 1000 more years, while every other language has changed their spellings and writing systems due to politics or just pure linguistic evolution, even if spoken Chinese has evolved into a new form, their speakers will still be writing the same characters and can fully understand the texts of their 21st century ancestors.
And with that, I leave you with one for oracle bone fragment I would like to share. My ancestor over 3000 years ago reached to divination to ask:
Divination: today, will it rain?
No, I don’t think it will, ancestor.
Ānyáng City, once the capital city of King Wǔ Dīng of Shāng, the one who asked for weather