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Subject:Chinese Hardstone Carved Seal
Posted By: TKNZ Wed, Aug 14, 2019 IP:

Hi all,

I just got this fairly large (about 13cm high) hardstone seal, and had a couple of questions about it.
1) Is anyone able to decipher what it says? It's a bit too stylized for me, and I got as far as "志XX" before giving up. The carving is by far nicer and finer than any other hardstone seal I've had before, so I wonder if it belonged to someone recognisable.
2) What were these seals actually used for (if anything)? They're such an irregular shape that they seem almost ornamental rather than practical, but the bottom is perfectly flat and pretty neatly inscribed which seems like too much effort to go to for a feature that would never be used. It's also, in a funny way, fairly ergonomic to hold, so it's almost as if someone thought about how to design it so it could be used somewhat regularly for stamping.
3) Any idea how old this might be? Most highly decorative hardstone seals I've seen are rather crude 20th C productions with erroneous Qianlong seal engravings, but this one really seems to be quite finely carved and by someone who knew what they were doing (it is perfectly balanced, there aren't any rough edges besides a place where the bottom of the spear seems to have fractured off, and the figures are fairly anatomically correct, with very well-carved hands). These sorts of things always struck me as rather sloppy late 20th C pieces for the tourist market, but I'm not so sure about this one. Either way, I bought it for 1 Yen, so I'm not concerned if it's brand new in the slightest.
Many thanks for any info and opinions in advance!


Link :Imgur Gallery (Full Res Photos)

Subject:Re: Chinese Hardstone Carved Seal
Posted By: Bill H Wed, Aug 14, 2019

I can't wait to see expert opinions about what it really says, but it looks to me a bit like 我志騭 (wǒ​ zhì​ zhì​), which might be translated (if the carver was Chinese) as "I want a promotion!", an ambition I'd second.

Best regards,

Bill H.

Subject:Re: Chinese Hardstone Carved Seal
Posted By: Mark Adams Wed, Aug 14, 2019

Chinese chop seals were symbols of status, power, identity and credit. Still used today by artists to authentic genuineness and value of artwork's etc.
Probably IMO the material is soapstone. It may also be Shoushan (white,yellow,brown,orange and red with same often appearing in a mixed colour). Also may be Qingtian (light yellow to orange,brick red or purple,green and blue).
Your example displays more fluidity and intricate carving style than most examples.
IMO dates from about the 1970's. However an earlier date is possible.
I especially like the dragon.
Hope this helps you out.
[email protected]

Subject:Re: Chinese Hardstone Carved Seal
Posted By: TKNZ Thu, Aug 15, 2019

Thanks for your comments Bill and Mark! It's pretty funny to imagine the inscription could be "I want a promotion!" and that the seal was presented to some workshop boss by a stifled craftsman when it was made, though I guess this might not be the case. I look forward to hearing whether or not that really is what it says!

As for the material, I'd have no clue how to differentiate between the stones, although it may help to know that in person it is a grey-brown-green olive colour with some stronger, more opaque grey inclusions, some almost clear inclusions, and areas with a fair amount of orange toning. It's also fairly translucent, and a white light shone through it reveals a bright orange colour. I've attached a rather poor photo attempting to show this in case that sheds any light on which variety of stone it may be.

Again, many thanks for your insight and opinions.


Subject:Re: Chinese Hardstone Carved Seal
Posted By: mikeoz Thu, Aug 15, 2019

Dear Bill,

Your suggestion gave me a hint that led to me making sense of the strange character in the lower section.

Starting from the top right, the seal would read

Zhi zai tang (then the character you read as Wo, I'm not sure of it)


Does that make any sense to you?


Subject:Re: Chinese Hardstone Carved Seal
Posted By: TKNZ Thu, Aug 15, 2019

Hi all,

I looked up carved seals under the stone types Mark provided me with and found one sold by Christie's that has the same kind of inclusions as mine has. The one at Christie's is a much higher quality stone, though, as mine has more inclusions and a much more green/brown tone to it. I understand they're worlds apart in terms of value and quality, but I thought I'd link the Christie's one anyway as their photos showing the inclusions (in the lower right part of the seal) are far clearer than mine could ever be.

Therefore, I think it's probably a Shoushan stone of fairly average quality as opposed to a Qingtian one, as the colours seem more in-line with the stones from that region (although I couldn't go as far as classifying it into one of the many types of Shoushan stone that there are).

As for the translation, many thanks for the efforts everyone is putting in - that character on the left is still really stumping me...


URL Title :Christie's Seal

Subject:Re: Chinese Hardstone Carved Seal
Posted By: Bill H Fri, Aug 16, 2019

It appears the translation in Chinese and Japanese both have the drift of "My ambition" with the four character breakdown. Maybe a Japanese name, or something weird from Tang poetry? Zhiteng (志騰) pops up in some Chinese company names. However, the seal meaning certainly tends toward enigmatic.

Best regards,


Bill H. | Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries |