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Chinese Seal
Seal in China
Chinese Seal
China Information - China Folk Culture and Art
Chinese Seal

Chinese Seal

Visitors to China may be amazed at the many souvenir shops where the service of "Seal-engraving" is readily available. Very often, the engraver
chains that the seal for a name will be finished in 15 minutes --- less than the time the visitors usually stay in a souvenir shop. And many foreign
businessmen who are so used to signing their names in a contract found with astonishment that their Chinese counterparts preferred to use

To the Chinese, a seal was for many centuries a symbol of power. The emperor's seal was called Xi, and it gave authority to all his inferiors, and
government at different levels all issued orders under official seals. In other words, the seals stood for different levels of government and their
corresponding powers. Nowadays, the central Chinese government offices use brass as a rule while local offices wood ones.
The art of seal engraving can be traced back to more than 3,000 years to the Yin Dynasty when the cutting of inscription on tortoise shells were the
only way that the idea of human being could be recorded. It developed rapidly in the Qin Dynasty (221-207 B.C.) when people engraved their
names on utensils and document to claim ownership or for verification in social contacts.

As we know, traditional Chinese painting is a harmonious combination in the same picture of the arts of painting, calligraphy with engraving skills
and the art of arranging Chinese characters into imaginative patterns in a very limited space. A master seal engraver must be able to write different
styles of the Chinese scripts and arrange all the characters in a perfect balance. Like a master calligrapher, sometimes, he needs to exaggerate
the thickness or thinnest of a stroke, elaborately straighten or curve it, to even deliberately deform an ideogram to create an artistic effect.
The success of a seal is very much determined by the engraver's speed and strength of his wrist and finger movements, as well as the particular
tools he uses. Also he should be very familiar with the various materials --- jade, gold, brass, stone, wood and etc. --- so that he can apply his tool
with the right exertion and rhythm.

Today, stone is the most widely used material in seal engraving. Among all the stones, Shoushan Stones, which come from the northern outskirt
of Shoushan country, Fuzhou city, are the most famous. The most valuable for engraver is Tianhuang Stone, a kind of Shoushan. Another less
precious stone is called "Chicken's Blood" stone, which comes from Changhua Country in Zhejiang Province. The "Chicken's Blood" stone
contains cinnabar which makes it look like blood splashed on the stone in a free pattern.

Nowadays, seals are still widely used, and the art of seal engraving has become more, not less, popular than ever before.


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