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Nina

Any help with the Seal Script characters?

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Nina

Hello-

I'm new to this forum, but there's such great information here about learning Chinese, and you all seem like truly helpful and friendly people.

My main interest in learning to read Chinese is based on the Tao Te Ching (or is it more correct to call it the Dao De Jing?). From the first time I read that book many years ago, I just knew those characters had more to say to me than the English translations I was reading. And now, with the help of various on-line and published dictionaries, I'm realizing my dream.

If any of you could help me with this:

Wieger's dictionary shows many of the Seal Script characters, but not all of them. I'm wondering if not all of the characters used in the Tao Te Ching had Seal Script characters? Is there a dictionary of all of the Chinese characters with their Seal Script characters?

Thanks for any help you might offer. I'll probably come up with other questions for you as well.

-Nina

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ananda

I think Seal script is not one script, it could be 'inscriptions on bronze',

or '小篆'(Ch'in kingdom's style, and was adopted by the order of First

emperor.) I didn't find a internet-version of them, but i really find

some dictionaries of 小篆 to standard style sold in internet.

http://www.artbook.cn/tsjj.asp?bm=81669&data=zkc it's all chinese, would it help you?

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889

Seal scripts take a lot of different forms. Many of these are collected in the Qing-era 汉印分韵 Han Yin Fen Yun, which has some 15,000 forms for about 2,000 characters.

It's been reprinted by the 上海书店出版社 Shanghai Shudian Chubanshe and perhaps by other publishers as well. The book's pretty widely available because it's a common reference for seal-carving.

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Lu

Nina: have you read it according to the Heshanggong commentaries yet? Some chapters get a totally different explanation with this older commentary.

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Nina

Ananda and 889-

Thanks so much for the link, but I'm afraid my Chinese isn't good enough yet to read that site. Rats! What I'm looking for is a dictionary that lists the Traditional characters with the Seal Script characters for each one.

Lu-

Yes, I've read some of the Heshanggong commentaries, but not all of them. A friend of mine has emailed me sections of Heshanggong in Chinese. Do you know if there's an English translation of Heshanggong?

Actually, what I've been working on for the last 3 years is a workbook for English-speaking people to be able to read the Dao De Jing from Chinese for themselves, without having to learn the entire Chinese language. My workbook includes all of the chapters of the DDJ in Chinese and with English definitions; it also includes a dictionary of all the Chinese characters used in the DDJ with their etymology, brief historical notes on ancient China to explain the connotations of the various characters, and the Seal Script characters.

I have always believed that the DDJ speaks directly to the heart/mind (xin) of each of us, at different times in our lives. Reading other people's translations and commentaries may be beneficial to understanding the thought-patterns of the people (or person - Laozi) who wrote the book in the first place, but for those of us who are self-cultivating in our connection with Dao, it seems to me that there's so much more in the Chinese characters (pictographs) than there are in the English words we so cleverly try to use to define them.

Thank you for the assist on my journey. Any other suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Respectfully-

Nina

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Altair

I cannot find my copy at the moment, but I am pretty sure that Quaille's Practical Chinese-English Dictionary has seal character equivalents for each of the characters it lists.

Here is a description from Schoenhofs Bookstore (http://www.schoenhofs.com/app/detail?isbn=9627160903):

"Quaille's Practical Chinese-English Dictionary

(Asia 2000) 1999 hardcover. 924pp.

ISBN: 9627160903

$24.95

"From the Jacket

"This new Chinese-English dictionary includes 4,000 Chinese characters and more than 23,000 English word and phrase entries.

"It is unique among popular dictionaries in showing the stroke order for each character and in giving eight calligraphic forms for each character, from ancient and cursive forms to modern typographic form, in both traditional and simplified versions."

The book is also apparently available from Amazon, but with two slightly different titles. Maybe, these represent different versions.

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Nina

Hi Sandra-

Try the link again tomorrow.

I think the web master is making changes to his site, which takes it out of circulation for a time. I'll let you know when it's working again.

Sorry for the confusion. I'm in touch with the web master, and if it's no longer a viable site, I'll let you know.

-Nina

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Ole

Hello Nina,

You might want to know about this site , a project of hypertext-daodejing with explanations and seal-script :

here

If you know it already, just ignore this post, it might be inspiring for somebody else as well...

Ole

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Lu

Nina, yes, there is an English translation of the Daodejing with the commentary of Heshanggong: "Ho-Shang-Kung's commentary on Lao-tse", transl. from the Chinese and annotated by Eduard Erkes (Ascona: Artibus Asiae, 1958).

It's not a very good translation though, there are mistakes in it. A better one, if you can read Dutch, is "Daodejing" translated from the Chinese by B.J. Mansvelt Beck (Utrecht: Servire, 2002).

There's also a commentary on the book, by Wang Ka.

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kentsuarez

Nina wrote: “Wieger's dictionary shows many of the Seal Script characters, but not all of them”

Kent: Before I answer, I have to tell you, don’t trust the etymology or even character deconstruction of Wieger. He was not a professional philologist, and makes tons of errors. Furthermore, it is based on the 2000-year-old Shuōwén plus Wieger’s own scholarship, and thus fails to incorporate much recent linguistic research and archaeological sources such as characters found on Shāng Dynasty oracle bones, bronzes, pottery inscriptions, silks and bamboo books. Thus, the content is very unreliable and terribly out of date. As is the etymology in anything like Wilder & Ingram, or Harbaugh, which relies on Shuōwén only, and ignores more recent scholarship. You’re better off with 謝光輝 Xìe Guānghuī Ed., (1997). The Composition of Common Chinese Characters: An Illustrated Account, Peking (sic) University Press. ISBN 7-301-03329-x. A large softcover book with 652 pp., each showing the evolution of one character, with single, representative OB, bronze, and seal forms, accompanied by a brief paragraph of explanation in English and Mandarin (simplified characters), with illustrations and cartoons.

Nina “I'm wondering if not all of the characters used in the Tao Te Ching had Seal Script characters?”

Kent: Well, if it was written anytime around the sixth century BC (as the historian Sima Qian recorded) then it would have originally been written in the script of the time, which was roughly similar to the small seal script as we know it, but preceding the standardization upon unification. Or you could say that it was the early Eastern Zhou bronze script, if you like. After the fall of the W. Zhou, the scripts in different areas headed in somewhat different directions, with variant forms arising in some and not others. Assuming Laozi even wrote it: allthough Laozi was said to be from Chu, which was not a conservative area in terms of script, if Laozi was really a “Shi” officer, keeper of the archives in the imperial archives in the capital Luoyang ( I don’t know that he was; I just saw it on a website), then he probably wrote in a conservative script, which might have thus been similar to the Qín tradition, in which case the unified small seal script is a fair approximation of how he might have written it originally. Or at least, we should say, you’re probably not going to be able to get any closer to reconstructing the graphs he would have used without getting a PhD in the area. But yes, they must have all had seal forms (broader sense), or he could not have written it, since there were no other scripts at the time.

Nina “Is there a dictionary of all of the Chinese characters with their Seal Script characters? “

You can find small seal forms in a number of dictionaries which require lookup by bushou. There are seal forms for most of the important characters in the Hanyu Da Zidian (which is probably way too big for your needs), in various books on etymology like the above-mentioned Xìe Guānghuī Ed., (1997). The Composition of Common Chinese Characters (bilingual; recommended!), or 劉興隆Liú Xīnglóng (1997). 新編甲骨文字典 (new oracle bone dictionary; all Chinese, but mentions bronze and seal forms too), 文史者出版社, 台北. Wénshĭzhĕ (Wen-shih-che) Publishing, Taipei. ISBN 957-549-062-2. Or Wáng Hóngyuán (1993). 漢字字源入門 The Origins of Chinese Characters, Sinolingua, Beijing, ISBN 7-80052-243-1 (has English. Poor descriptions of origins, but nice for the variety of early forms listed);

These will all include the standard small seal, straight from Shuōwén, but none of them are comprehensive. If you want to be able to find just about any graph in seal form, you can just buy a copy of Shuōwén: I recommend the Taipei reprinting by Li-ming Wen-hua Co Tiangong Books天工書局, 台北市忠孝西路一段263号; (02)2314-0011; 2255-2408, because it has the seal forms in red. Be warned, however, that looking the characters up in Shuowen is a pain, and you may need someone to explain to you how to do so. You won’t be able to read the contents, at your level; you’ll just be able to pick out the seal form to match the kai form.

There are also specialized dictionaries just of seal script, like the 中國篆書大字典, 上海書畫出版社, but this reprints renditions by various later calligraphers as well as authentic oracle bone to small seal forms. It's really oriented towared calligraphers.

If you think you’ll study Chinese up to the classical level, then I’d pick the Hanyu Da Zidian, which has both PRC (simplified) and ROC (traditional) printings, as it will come in handy when you reach higher levels.

Ananda wrote: “I think Seal script is not one script, it could be 'inscriptions on bronze', or '小篆'(Ch'in kingdom's style, and was adopted by the order of First emperor.)

and 889 wrote: “Seal scripts take a lot of different forms.”

Kent: Well, when they say seal script, most people mean the small seal script as standardized in the 3rd century BCE by the Qín administration. When the people in the 漢 Hàn dynasty invented the Chinese version of the English term ‘large seal’, they probably meant the subset of graphs which were excluded from the standardized vocabulary, most of which were variant forms of the Qin lineage, and dating to around the 8th to 3rd centuries BCE. Thus, they were a subset of the Qin system, not a complete script. So there is no such thing as the “large seal script”, just ‘large seal graphs’, although I imagine you could intentionally expand the term to include the entire script of the pre-unification Eastern Zhoū period within the state of Qín. Some use the term “seal” to refer to the small and large seal graphs jointly. To complicate matters, we also use the term ‘seal’ to refer to the carving on seals, especially the Hàn style, but note that this style does differ somewhat from the classic small seal form, because the Han characters are squished and squared and convoluted somewhat in order to fill all the available space on the seal surface.

I imagine that what Nina is interested in is the classic small seal form of the 3rd century BCE. Or perhaps Eastern Zhou bronze forms in general, but that's gonna be really hard to find a good but non-specialist dictionary for.

I am also very curious, has anyone actually seen Quaille's Practical Chinese-English Dictionary ? What I want to know is whether it is pinyin ordered, does it have a pinyin index, and are the entries of good quality? I'll copy and repaste this part separately, too.

Kent

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Nina

Hi Ole-

Thanks for the link. Yes, I know of that site, and have been in communication with Wulf for years.

-Nina

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Nina

Hi Kent-

Thanks for all the great information.

I realize that there are errors in Wieger, Shuo Wen, Harbaugh, Wenlin and most of the other etymological dictionaries. I doubt that anyone could trace those ancient characters to their original meanings, even with modern technology and the latest discoveries of OBs from the past. By viewing the various interpretations of just what those graphs represented, it shows me that even the most diligent scholars haven't come to an agreement about them.

My research isn't meant to debunk the erroneous efforts of past scholars, nor to find the definitive answers for interpretations of the etymology of the characters, but simply to put them into a framework that makes them easier to read as pictures or paintings. If I thought I could ever find the actual origins of those beautiful graphs, I'd probably be consulting a psychic to help me channel to an ancient scribe. :-)

I'm just staying open, Kent, and I really do appreciate any help along the Way. My only interest at the present is in the Classics, and looking at the Oracle Bone, Bronze and Seal characters is like a special treasure wrapped in a bright box with a fancy bow.

Thanks for the help-

Nina

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kentsuarez

Nina wrote: ""I doubt that anyone could trace those ancient characters to their original meanings...even the most diligent scholars haven't come to an agreement about them. "

Kent: But there IS agreement among scholars on many of them, and many, many have been definitely traced to their original meanings. Furthermore, is is crystal clear that many of the analyses of the amateurs Wieger and Harbaugh are dead wrong. Some of these erroneous analyses are based on obvious misunderstandings of Shuowen. Others are due to the fact that there are clear errors in Shuowen. In fact, even a few of the seal forms in Shuowen are wrong, due to the misunderstanding by late Han scholars of the seal graphs (which were from many hundreds of years earlier) as well as errors by later copyists and engravers. The fact that there is disagreement between scholars on the origins some graphs shouldn't be a reason to throw out all their valuable scholarship and blindly accept the idiosyncratic and fallacious analyses of a couple of amateur writers like Wieger and Harbaugh.

Nina: "My research isn't meant to debunk the erroneous efforts of past scholars, nor to find the definitive answers for interpretations of the etymology of the characters, but simply to put them into a framework that makes them easier to read as pictures or paintings. If I thought I could ever find the actual origins of those beautiful graphs, I'd probably be consulting a psychic to help me channel to an ancient scribe. :-) "

Kent: But in the process of making them easier to read as pictures, why not make your explanation of the components accurate as well, rather than giving misleading pictures? For example, X. Furthermore, many of the origins which are cited by scholars are actually more interesting and vivid than the erroneous ones in, say, Wieger. For example, on p. 31 the penultimate graph shen1 is thought by scholars to be a depiction of lightning; you can thus find it in the graph dian4 electricity. And although it's not clear whether its presence in the graph shen2 'gods' is purely phonetic or also semantic, the link between the heavens (gods) and lightning certainly paints a striking picture. In contrast, Wieger's 'to gird up with both hands' is a rather drab picture, and is clearly based upon an erroneous seal structure.

The psychics *are* available, in this case in the form of the oracle bones through which they speak. :) So it is strongly recommended that you put your trust in books which do take into account these most ancient and revealing of sources, and not outdated and unreliable sources like Wieger.

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