Friday, 4 July 2014

Chinese seals and engraving 吴昌硕

Engraving is an art. There is so much to explore in this art form.

Some Chinese artists also know the art of engraving. Apart from engraving name for others on seals-stones, they also engrave poems, thoughts and famous sayings on seals-stones. Emperor Kangxi had 2 seals stone with engravings to remind him the importance of being a good and caring emperor. These stones were later auctioned for over 3 millions RMB. Apart from emperors and court officials, scholars and artists also indulged in the hobby of engraving and collecting seals. Beside engraving complicated calligraphy (it is really difficult to read the engravings) , others engrave simple paintings such as flowers, bamboo trees, portraits and animals on one side of the stones, then artistic calligraphy on other side while the end of the stone is for engraving a person's name.
Literature on seals engraving

Seals stones

The culture of seals-engraving is deep-rooted in the history of Chinese art. You find seals on paintings, seals on teapots and also seals on ancient document such as Emperors' decrees. It is reported that Emperor Qianlong himself  had over 3000 seals, all craved using the best seals materials. The last Emperor, Puyi, when he fled the palace, he only took with him the three-link seals (carved from Tianhuang, top of the range seals stones) of Qianlong which he later donated to the government hoping for an early release from prison.

I also collect seal stones as I admire the artistic and cultural aspects of different variety of engraving styles and seals stones. Recently I collected one square seals-stone with very fine engraving on its top surface and some unique characters on its end face. Later I discovered that the fine characters were actually 3 poems and at the end of the poems I found the name of the engraver. It was the famous late Qing Artist, Wu Changshou 吴昌 . When I search in the web, I found a lot of information on this artist and his engraving work.
You need a magnifying glass to read the poems
No idea what the characters meant, beyond my comprehension
This is ancient calligraphy, Chuan Shu
Wu Changshou

Stamps issued to recognize Wu's work
 There is an interesting story regarding this great engraver. Wu had a wife who passed away. Wu loved his wife very much and everyday he was thinking about the good times they had together. He really missed her. One day he dreamt of her in his dream and she seemed like waving to him. Afraid of losing this feeling of her, he Immediately got up and engraved his wife image on a seal stone for remembrance. There is always a soft side in a great man 's character.

Painting by Wu

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