Seal script

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《尋隱者不遇》
賈島
松下問童子
言師採藥去
隻在此山中
雲深不知處

Seeking the Master but not Meeting by Jia Dao

Beneath a pine I asked a little child. / He said the Master went to gather herbs. / Alone was he upon this mountainside, / The clouds so deep he knew not where he was.

Seal script is a style of Chinese calligraphy. This ancient style of Chinese writing is still used in artist's seal (or chop) nowadays.

There are two main types of seal scripts, the Dazhuan (大篆) or Great Seal script, and the Xiaozhuan (小篆) or Small Seal Script.

The Great Seal script is thought to have been systemised during the reign of the Zhou dynasty King Xuan (周宣公) in the form of zhouwen (籒文). They are characterised by vertically elongated characters of a regular appearance.

The Small Seal script was systemised by Li Si during the reign of the First Emperor of China Qin Shi Huang. Through Chinese commentaries, it is known that Li Si compiled Cangjie (蒼頡篇), a non-extant work of character recognition list of some 3,300 Chinese characters in small seal script. Their form is characterised by being less rectangular and more squarish.

The first character dictionary, Shuowen Jiezi 說文解字 (100 AD - 121 AD), shows 9,353 small seal script characters listed under 540 radicals, the lifework of Xu Shen, during the Han Dynasty.

Note, however, that the literal translation of 篆文 (ie. seal script) means inscription script, since Chinese writing at the time were more often inscribed than written on silk; the contemporary translation seal script is a misnomer, since it is nowadays used mainly, but not exclusively, in seals.

See also

ja:篆書体 zh:篆书

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