The History and Art of Chinese Seals

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The art of seal design and carving is the last major Chinese art form that has not received much attention in the West.At last, there is now an authoritative exposition on the history and aesthetics of the art of the Chinese seal. It should berequired reading by all students of Chinese art as another path to reach an understanding of an underlying principle ofall Chinese art and the knowledge gained will be of immeasurable help in connoisseurship of Chinese paintings andcalligraphy. For people who are interested in graphic design, and who possess an elementary knowledge of thestructure of Chinese characters, the book will be a great source of inspiration.
  ——James C. Y. Watt, The Metropolitan Museum of Art,New York
From ancient times to the present day, the countries of East Asia, led by China, have produced great quantities of seals.China has been regarded as the world's seal producer par excellence. Since the Ming Dynasty, the practical applicationof the seal has been in decline, but its aesthetic qualities have dramatically improved. Over time this has led to thedevelopment of a new category of Chinese art - seal engraving. Scholars thus address the seal from two differentstandpoints: historians, paleographers and archaeologists are more concerned with the practical use of ancient seals,while art historians and lovers of arts are more interested in the art of seal engraving.All will welcome the completion of this first comprehensive work written independently by an individual on the 2,500-yearhistory of Chinese seals. It addresses such topics as historiography, epigraphy and artistic history. An additionalcontribution ot what is by any standards an outstanding book is the collection of hundreds of invaluable, clear, anddetailed pictures depicting genuine items. This is a monumental work on the significance and distinctiveness of Chineseseals in the field of world seal history. I sincerely hope it will enjoy wide-spread popularity among the readers.
  ——Michio Matsumaru, Professor Emeritus at the University of Tokyo
The striking feature of the book lies in its interpretation of the special character of Chinese seals with the combination ofsuch information as the evolution of script in Chinese seals and the seal system through 3,000 years of social order anddisorder, political reforms, economic prosperity and decline, ethnic conflicts and integration, and changes in culturalfashion. Many original academic conclusions are drawn and the latest thinking in modern seal theory is incorporated inthe book.The book includes more than 1,400 pictures, and all the seal samples selected come from precious collections ofmuseums at home and abroad, invaluable as seals marking events of the past dynasties and representative works ofvarious artistic styles. It represents the richest compendium of seal history that has so far been made available to thepublic.
  ——Hart Tianheng, Vice-president of Xiling Seal Society and Dean of the A~'t institute of Chinese Seal Carving
Table of Contents
Introduction The World of Ancient Seals and Special Features of Chinese Seals
Section 1 Overview of Seals in the East and the West in Antiquity
Definition of Seals
Seal Systems at Their Early Stage in the East and West
Section 2 Properties and Forms of Chinese Seals
Forms of Chinese Seals
Independence and Stability of Seal Characters
Expansion of Seal Functions
Section 3 The Chinese Art of Seal Engraving
Formation and Characteristics of Engraving Art
Aesthetics of Engraving Art

Chapter 1 The Origins and Early Development of Chinese Seals-The Pre-Qin Dynasty Period
Section 1 Uses of Seals Recorded in Ancient Writings
Origins of Seals
Use and Use Methods of Seals
Statutory Position of Official Seals and Their Management
Section 2 Early Forms and Origination Path of Seals
Nature of Bronze Seals Unearthed from the Yin Ruins
Transition of Properties of Die and Seal
Disappearance of Original Function and Emergence of Official Seals
Section 3 Regional Seal Styles during the Warring States Period
Seal Families of Various States
Artistic Features of Seals in the Warring States Period

Chapter 2 Formation of a Unified Feudal Dynastic Rule and the Establishment of Qin and Han Seal Systems-The Qin and Han Dynasties
Section 1 Centralized Authority and the Political Elements of Qin and Han Official Seal Systems
Conferring Official Positions and Seals, Totalitarian System
Institutionalized Administration of Official Seals
Role of Seals in Ethnic Relations
Section 2 Toward Standardized Forms - Official and Private Seals of the Qin Dynasty
Qin Seals Established a New Form Pattern
Conflict between Refinement and Randomness in Seal Text
Section 3 Artistic Laws of Han Dynasty Seals
A New Stage in Esthetics
Mainstream Styles and Categories
Artistic Creativity of Han Seal Forms
Section 4 Academic Discussions on Seals of the Qin, Han,Wei and Jin Dynasties
New Historical Materials Concerning Qin and Han Official Seal Systems
Fixed Historical Details
Characters on Xi and Yin and Scholarly Puzzles

Chapter 3 From Following Convention to Aban-doning Restraint- The Wei, Jin,Northern and Southern Dynasties
Section 1 Continuing Han Seal Tradition
Separate Regimes, Converging Seal Standards
Reconstruction of the Seal System
Improvement in Standards
Section 2 Evolution of Calligraphy and Changes in Seal Styles
Settling for Partial Control and Holding Ground
Fusion and New Styles
The Fun of Freedom and Boldness
Section 3 Division of South and North, Brevity and Boldness
From Stamps on Clay to Red-ink Imprints on Paper
Vigorous Style of the Northern Dynasty
Southern Dynasty: The Dying Glow of the Qinand Han System
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 9
Sample Pages Preview
Sample pages of The History and Art of Chinese Seals (ISBN:9787119066035)
Sample pages of The History and Art of Chinese Seals (ISBN:9787119066035)
The textual content of seals comprisestwo elements, namely: character form(字体) and script style (书体). Over thepre-Qin and Han dynasty period, thecharacters on seals gradually evolved intoa special stylistic form, becoming a scriptsubject to the provisions of governmental systems. For instance, in the early HanDynasty, in the examination used by theOffice of the Grand Historian to test students among the "six scripts" (六体书)was one known as mo seal script (摹印章 ). Government regulations resulted ina long-lasting historical custom, so thatzhuan seal script (篆体) remained thebasic script for Chinese seal characters forover two millennia. During this period,the Chinese characters also saw the evolution of different calligraphic styles.
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The History and Art of Chinese Seals