Ancient Egyptian and Babylonian characters were invented over 5,000 years ago. After having gone through the test of time, they continue to be used.
The ancient Chinese used simple pictographs to record events or record notes before Chinese characters were invented. Over time, the pictographs became simplified to a basic outline and developed designs and meanings, leading to the beginning of pictographic characters. By the 14th century a mature system of characters called Jiaguwen had developed. About 6,000 characters have been found inscribed on bones and tortoise shells, recording in detail the activities of sacrificial ceremonies and divinations. Most of these characters are pictographs, but the beginning of ideographs and phonographs can be seen. Ideographs and phonographs are more advanced than simple pictographs as they represent abstract ideas and sounds.
The abstractness of Chinese characters further strengthened and more ideographic and phonographic characters were introduced based on jiaguwen. After 221 BC, the first emperor of China, Qin Shihuang, took measures to unify and standardise the many different writing styles after he united China. Xiaozhuan, a simplified type of seal characters became commonly used throughout the empire. Xiaozhuan had a simpler structure and was easier to write. These characters were further simplified as lishu characters, a type of official script. The lishu had fewer strokes and simplified writing, with curved strokes becoming straight strokes. The transformation of xiaozhuan to lishu completely changed the look of Chinese characters.
From the 4th to the 6th century, Chinese characters became standardised based on the lishu script. Since the 6th century, a formal script called kaishu has been popularised all over China. Although the kaishu has seen minor changes, these characters are almost the same Chinese characters in use today.
Chinese calligraphy has seen many talented artists create some memorable works. They've infused the characters with a rich artistic meaning beyond the meaning of the character itself. The characters themselves have developed deep and subtle meanings and when coupled with Chinese poetry, the characters themselves become works of art.