;Cheng Sui (1607-1692) enjoyed a prestigious status in the history of seal carving art. He has been respectfully named “the father of seal carvingin the years of Emperor Huizong, Qing Dynasty” by later generations. Theimpact he brought is immense. Since his times, most of the seal engravers have been under his influence, such as those of the Huizong, Zhezong and Rugao Schools. His style is inspired by Ming Dynasty’s literati seal carving art,which retain elements of traditional Qing and Han seals. He also drew inspirations from texts other than seal carvings to design his seals, highlighting calligraphic expressions.
An engraver who lived at the turn of a new dynasty, Cheng on the one hand inheritedthe spirit of thehighly developed late-Ming seal carving art. On the other, he was a pioneer in restoring epigraphy studies during the early QingDynasty. By studying Cheng Sui’s calligraphy and seal carving styles, this study examines the relationship between the development of seal carving art and epigraphy studies during the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties. Also, by looking at the related artistic activities carried out by seal engravers, calligraphers and epigraphers of that time, the conditions of the study of seal carving art before the emergence of the two major arguments of the late Qing Dynasty, “seal carvings should derive from calligraphy” and “seal carving artshould be inspired by sources more than seal carvingsalone,” were analyzed.
This study is divided into four chapters. The first chapter looks at Cheng Sui’s The Study of Jiaoshan Cauldron Inscriptions (Jiaoshan Ding Ming Kao) and epigraphy studies in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties. The conditions of epigraphy studies of that period are discussed in detail. This chapter also investigates Cheng Sui and his friends’ search for historical inscriptions, to try to understand how epigraphy studies might have influenced Cheng Sui. Lastly, by drawing references from Cheng and his friends’ researching the Jiaoshan Cauldron, this chapter analyzes how deeply Cheng Sui and the literati of his times may have been engaged in the study of bells, cauldrons and wine and sacrificial vessels. Chapter Two shows Cheng Sui’s reviewing and re-coining of Han seals. This chapter discusses the development of Han clerical script at the time and the relationship between Cheng Sui’s Han seal expressions and Miuzhuan. Chapter Three is about Cheng Sui’s imitations of historical Qing seals. First, people’s views of historical Qing seals in the late Ming and early Qing Dynasties are explored. The chapter thenreviews the formation of Cheng’s “combination of Large and Small Seal Scripts,” finds the epigraphy literatures and related books on antiquity texts that Cheng might have referred to, and describes how the seal carving community at the time liked to use historical Qing scripts to make seals. Chapter Four presents thecalligraphy-inspired seal carvingsby seal engravers after Cheng Sui’s times, as well as how these engravers drew inspirations from sources other than seal carvings to make seals. Taking the engravers of the Zhezong and Huizong Schools as examples, this chapter examines the perspectives taken by later engravers on the Ming seal expressions.