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realmayo

How do people write seal script?

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realmayo

I'm just curious about how people who are required to write out old forms of Chinese characters such seal script do so. For instance @OneEye has mentioned here that he has copied out all the seal forms in the Shuowen Jieze three times. Example here: https://www.chinese-forums.com/forums/topic/50805-outlier-semantic-components-poster-review/?do=findComment&comment=389664

 

Is there a stroke order? Naturally they appear quite anti-brush!

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OneEye

There are stroke orders, although I'm not sure I ever learned all of the rules—I was more concerned with just finishing the homework. You'll notice in the photo that symmetrical curved shapes that look like they could be done with a single stroke are often done in two, to make symmetry easier to achieve. Also, if you're using a brush there are certain techniques used to keep the stroke width even, but I used a pencil so I'm no help there.

 

There are books on the subject, of course, but my main purpose was to 1) get my homework finished and 2) learn to read 小篆, so again, not much help as far as books on writing I'm afraid. This looks like a decent intro though.

 

image.thumb.png.f65023976f065937bd5bd89f94c9dae5.png

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889

The question made me realise that I have no idea what writing instruments besides the brush were used in dynastic times.

 

Anyone ever looked into this?

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realmayo
1 hour ago, OneEye said:

You'll notice in the photo that symmetrical curved shapes that look like they could be done with a single stroke are often done in two, to make symmetry easier to achieve.

 

Thanks for the reply! That's interesting - I was kind of assuming that even enclosing squares were one single stroke :mrgreen:.

 

I'd previously vaguely noticed that my version of Wenlin now has 篆體 for all characters, but I'd never thought to click on one of them to see what happens. Turns out Wenlin includes a 說文解字!

 

Quote

Wenlin includes Dr. Richard S. Cook’s《說文解字·注》Shuōwén Jiězì – Zhù Seal Script TrueType font.

This large hand-drawn outline font contains 11,246 glyphs in the 東漢 Eastern Hàn dynasty (121 A.D.) 篆体 Zhuàntǐ ‘Seal Script’ style used in the ancient dictionary 《說文解字》Shuōwén Jiězì, as revised and annotated by the famous 清 Qīng dynasty classicist 段玉裁 Duàn Yùcái (1815). Dr. Cook created this font in the mid-to-late 1990s, for use in his project to digitize various editions of the Shuōwén text.

 

Are there any obvious pitfalls to using this as a reference? I'd like to be able to recognise 200-500 of the commonest components, because (based on the handful I can now recognise) I get a childish kick out of deciphering them! (I'm aware that the 說文 itself makes lots of incorrect assumptions etc etc.)

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OneEye
1 hour ago, realmayo said:

Are there any obvious pitfalls to using this as a reference? I'd like to be able to recognise 200-500 of the commonest components, because (based on the handful I can now recognise) I get a childish kick out of deciphering them! (I'm aware that the 說文 itself makes lots of incorrect assumptions etc etc.)

 

I believe Dr. Cook's font is quite accurate. Note that there are a few very minor differences between the seal script used in the Qing-era 段玉裁《說文解字注》 and that in the Tang-era 徐鉉《說文解字》, which are the two most widely-used versions, but there's nothing really wrong with using either of the two.

 

One of my classes (an undergrad intro to paleography) had us memorize just the 540 radicals of the Shuowen. For the students in that class, that was enough to be able to basically decipher most seal script characters, with the obvious exception of characters which have corrupted since seal script. I'd say that's probably enough for most purposes outside of paleographic research.

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realmayo
22 minutes ago, OneEye said:

I'd say that's probably enough for most purposes outside of paleographic research.

 

Perfect - just what I was hoping to hear!

 

1 hour ago, Tomsima said:

Regardless of what the recording medium was, be it stone, bamboo, wood or paper, a brush would almost always be used to produce a draft first before carving. The brush then entered the mainstream with the widespread use of paper from the Han dynasty onwards.

 

Very interesting. And now I have a plastic pen with a brushlike nib made by a Japanese company in a Vietnam factory delivered to a UK address via a US company named after a South American rainforest.

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OneEye

I meant to mention: the final exam was written entirely in seal script, and we had to first transcribe the questions in regular script, and then answer them. Pretty much everyone in the class was able to do so with little difficulty after having memorized the 540 radicals (and having some practice reading 小篆 inscriptions).

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Dawei3
2 hours ago, Tomsima said:

postgrad dissertation was translating the history of the brush

Wow.  This blog has people with expertise in everything.  I think it's fascinating that so many seemingly simple things can have a interesting history.  

 

27 minutes ago, OneEye said:

having memorized the 540 radicals

2nd Wow - 540 radicals!  I enjoy learning Chinese, but I could never imagine doing this.

 

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oceancalligraphy

 

15 hours ago, realmayo said:

Is there a stroke order? Naturally they appear quite anti-brush!

 

There is a stroke order. Calligraphy books about specific seal script works have explanations. It's not anti-brush at all.

 

During the 清 Qing Dynasty, scholars were able to study the original seal script on steles. This also resulted in a lot of creativity from calligraphers and seal carvers. Some calligraphers from that time were 鄧石如 Deng Shiru, 吳昌碩 Wu Changshuo, and 趙之謙 Zhao Zhiqian (links to their calligraphy works).

 

I'm currently working on memorizing the 540 seal script radicals so I can improve my calligraphy and seal carving. It's taking some time, but I can tell I'm benefiting from it.

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