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Shoushan Stone Seal with a Nine-dragon Knob from the Vassal State of Ji

Ming (1368-1644)

Overall height: 14.7cm; Width: 6.6cm

Weight: 750g

Collected from Hunan Administration Committee for Cultural Relics, 1951

The Shoushan stone seal originated between the Yuan and the Ming dynasties. Soft and smooth, Shoushan stone was brought into full play in this seal. With nine dragons as its knob, this seal highlights their gesture in a vivid manner through splendid workmanship. The 16 Chinese characters inscribed in seal script, which feature strokes of the same width with no sharp tips, fill the broad seal surface, typical of the seals in the Ming dynasty.

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Shoushan Stone Seal: perfect integration of nature and humanities

Seals are symbols for power, status, identity and credit, and are necessary for ancient people during their social activities and lives. In China, seal was produced very early and it has 3,000 years history. Seal stones are raw materials for seals, among which Shoushan (寿山), Qingtian (青田), Jixue (鸡血 a.k.a. Chicken-blood) and Baling (巴林) stones are most famous and have always been favored by Chinese artists. 

Since ancient times, the Chinese literati have been using these stones for carving seals, which are then used to stamp on various artworks. The seals do not only add value to the artworks, they are also frequently used to authenticate the genuineness and value of the art pieces.

Shoushan stones are mined from Shoushan (寿山), Fuzhou in the Fujian province of China, and are choice materials for seal stones and for stone carving. The poem “Shoushan” by Huang Gan, a scholar of the Song Dynasty, is the first known poem about the Shoushan Stone.

Amongst them, the Tianhuang (田黄) stone is widely acknowledged as the “Emperor of Stones”, and is very much sought after by collectors. As Chinese people said. 1 ounce Tianhuang equals to 3 ounces Gold, showing that Tianhuang is very precious.