Pinyin English

Decorative Designs in Chinese Art 中国文物的纹饰

Fire Design 火纹
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Pictorial Seals 图形

Seal art is a large subject in itself and beyond the scope of this article. However, I want to include a few seals that a based on purely graphical designs. A xi is a special seal used by a ruler or immediate family of either the Shang or Zhou dynasty. Other people's seals were called yin . The seals below are from the best seal collect that I have seen is at the Shanghai Museum. The xi below, from the Western Zhou, is a curly grain design, which looks very similar to the fire design or could represent running water.

a ruler's seal
Ruler's seal with a curly grain design
Western Zhou (1045—771), Shanghai Museum

After Emperor Qin Shihuang 秦始皇 unified China in 221 BCE he ordered the Imperial Seal of China 传国玺 created. It was handed down to subsequent sovereigns as the seal of state 印玺. The seal was carved from the He Shi Bi 和氏璧, a famous piece of jade belonging to the Zhao State during the Warring States Period. The seal was lost, probably in the Five Dynasties period.

a pictorial seal
Pictorial seal for good wishes
Han (221 BCE —220 CE), Shanghai Museum

The seal below is a kind of script called bird and insect script 鸟虫书体. It is often used for inscriptions on ancient weapons.

bird and insect script
Seal with bird and insect script
Western Zhou (1045—771), Shanghai Museum
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