Aesthetic exploration- Seal carving

Seal carving, also seal cutting, or zhuanke in Chinese, is a traditional form of art that originated in China and later spread to East Asia. It refers to cutting a design into the bottom face of the seal (the active surface used for stamping, rather than the sides or top). Also known as seal engraving.

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Typical imperial seal

Chinese seal carving started in ancient Chinese times, during the Qin dynasty (221-210 B.C). The Chinese seal carving was originally used as an imperial seal – a seal used by the emperor to, in effect, put his stamp of approval on documents. The royal seal was called the Xi (which can literally be translated into “the imperial seal”). These Chinese seal carvings were used only by royalty.


After this dynasty, another type of seal developed. This Chinese seal carvings were used for non-official use by private individuals as a personalized stamp. These non-official custom stamps were called Yin. Yin is commonly used by Chinese artists to mark their art. With the culture development, some ink wash painting was curved on the seal.

Ink wash painting on the seal

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1 Comment. Leave new

  • Peilin – I have never heard of seal carving before. I think it is very interesting that these carvings were only used by royalty. Some of them are very intricate!


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