Books about Chinese-style seal carving.

Seal Bibliography

There are many books in Chinese on seal carving. There are many books in English about Chinese art that include a few paragraphs about seals. But there are very few books in English devoted only to seal carving. Here are those I know of. Contact me if you have any corrections or additions.

  • Bai, Qianshen and John Finlay. The World Within a Square Inch: modern developments in Chinese seal carving. New Haven, CN: Yale University Art Gallery, 1993. (Yale University Art Gallery Bulletin 1993, p.26-63). B&w photos with seals in red. These thirty-seven pages are a chapter in the University’s annual Art Gallery bulletin. The historical content is superseded by Sun Weizu (see below) but it does have some very good information on “modern” seal artists unavailable anywhere else. You may be able to get a copy from ABE Books but it is also available from Amazon.
  • Chen, Murong. China’s Qingtian Stone: Famous Stone, Reputed Stone Carving, Celebrated Artists. China: Zhejiang People’s Publishing House, 1996. 155 p., color photos with text in Chinese and English. Includes a well-illustrated section on the varieties of Qingtian stone, a section on famous seal carvers who used this stone, and another section on sculptors.
  • Chen, Walter. The Fine art of Chinese brush painting. NY: Sterling Publishing Co., 2006. Although this is a book about painting techniques, it does have a six page section on carving seals. Available from Amazon.
  • Contag, Victoria and Wang Chi-Ch’ien. Seals of Chinese painters and collectors of the Ming and Ch’ing periods. HK: Hong Kong University Press, 1966. Although this title is always mentioned in bibliographies about Chinese seals it is not very helpful – its real value is to the collector or curator who wants to use seals to authenticate a work of art. There is only a very brief introductory section on the art of seals, the rest of the book is a list of names with reproductions of their seals. Originally written in German with no translations of the seals into English. Available from Amazon.
  • Ge, J. and B. Yi, chief editors.  Experiencing the Stone Arts: ShouShan Stone Carving Exhibition. Taipei: National History Museum, 2016. 336 p. Catalog of an exhibition. “After seeing a temporary exhibition of seal stones at the National Museum of History in Taipei, displaying part(?) of a private collection, I acquired the beautiful book produced for the exhibition … The book is lavishly illustrated, bound in beautiful imperial yellow fabric, and in itself a pleasure to the eyes. The text (bilingual, Chinese and English) deals mainly with the scenes on each seal, describing what is behind the carvings regarding history, stories, symbolism, literature, mythology, etc. Something deeply missed is the lack of indication of when the pieces where made.” (provided by Duarte Soares)
  • Kuo, Jason C. Word as image: the art of Chinese seal engraving. NY: China Institute in America, 1992. ISBN 0-295-97253-X. Catalog of an exhibition held at China House Gallery. One of the best of the few books on the subject in English. Available from Amazon.
  • Lai, T.C. Chinese seals. Hong Kong: Kelly & Walsh, 1976. ISBN 0-295-95517-1. This was one of the first, and is still one of the best, books on the subject. There is a very interesting section in the back that shows examples of seals in different scripts. Available from Amazon.
  • Lau, Ho-man 劉浩敏. The Seal-engraving art of Deng Shiru (1743-1805). HK: University of Hong Kong, 2004.This is the text of a Master’s thesis available to download in electronic format. Illustrates all the known works of Deng Shiru with a good biography, a history of seals in China, and a useful discussion of the art of seal carving.
  • Lau, Ho Man 劉浩敏. A Study of Huang Mufu’s Life and Seal Engraving Art. HK: The Chinese University of Hong Kong, 2012. 804 p. [Thesis (Ph.D.), electronic resource] ISBN 9781267746290. Huang Mufu is another name for the artist Huang Shiling.
  • Lawrence, Elizabeth. The Chinese seal in the making, 1904-1937. NY: Columbia University, 2014. 301 p. [double spaced], some b&w illustrations. As a doctoral dissertation this can be a bit slow going, with numerous footnotes, but provides good information for the historian—especially concerning the Xiling Seal Society and the culture of seals in Hangzhou and Shanghai at the close of imperial and the beginnings of modern China.
  • Na, Chih-liang. Chinese seals: the collection of Ralph C. Lee. 1966. 134 p. Available from Amazon.
  • National Palace Museum. Lasting impressions: seals from the museum collection. Taipei: National Palace Museum, nd. ISBN 978-957-562-514-6. 95 p., color photos with text in Chinese and English. Beautifully illustrated but the text isn’t much help.
  • National Palace Museum. Masterpieces of Chinese seals in the National Palace Museum. Taipei: National Palace Museum, 1976. Color illustrations with text in Chinese and English. These are mostly ancient seals. Available from Amazon.
  • Niu, Kecheng. Chinese seals. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2008. ISBN 978-7-119-04197-1. 91 p., color photos. Very good. Though he is not credited in the (English) text, many of the illustrations are of the artist Wang Shihong (王士宏) and his work.
  • Pann, Yunn. Ancient art of the Chinese seal. Philadelphia: Running Press, 2005. (Miniature Editions). This is part of a boxed set which includes seal ink and four small pre-cut wooden seals. The book, although only three inches tall, has eighty-eight pages of worth-while text. Available from Amazon.
  • Shanghai Museum. Shanghai Museum: Chinese Seal Gallery. Shanghai: Shanghai Museum, nd. 52 p. Text in Chinese and English. Beautiful color illustrations with a little text. Available at the Museum. Available from Amazon.
  • Starr, Kenneth. Black Tigers: a Grammar of Chinese Rubbings. Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2008. 280 p., b&w illustrations. ISBN 978-0-98826-6. Although the technique of making a rubbing from the side inscription on a seal isn’t exactly the same as making a larger rubbing from bronze or stone, there are similarities. This is the only book I know of in English on the subject. Available from Amazon.
  • Su, Jinyun. On appreciation of Chinese seal stones. Hangzhou: 1995. (Country Heights Art Series) ISBN 7-5340-0552-3/J • 464. 95 p., color photos. Text in Chinese and English. The English translation is quaint, but this is the only book devoted exclusively to seal stones with any English text that I’ve been able to find.
  • Sun, Weizu. Chinese seals: carving authority and creating history. San Francisco: Long River Press, 2004. (Arts of China) ISBN 1-59265-013-9. Only eighty small pages but a good overview of the history of Chinese seals with excellent color reproductions. Available from Amazon.
  • Sun, Weizu. The History and art of Chinese seals. Beijing: Foreign Languages Press, 2010. — 1st ed. — ISBN 978-7-119-06603-5. 573 p., color and b&w photos. This is by far the best book in English on the history of Chinese seals. If you look hard enough you can find it on; it is expensive, but worth the price. Available from Amazon.
  • Taguchi, Nisyu. Tenkoku: the seal engraving from hieroglyphs to alphabet. Rutland, VT: Japan Publications Trading Company, 1964. 59 p., b&w photos with some seals in red. This slim volume is interesting mostly because it is the only book I know of in English that presents seals from a Japanese point of view, including terms for seals in Japanese. Available from Amazon.
  • Van Gulik, R.H. Chinese pictorial art as viewed by the connoisseur. NY: Hacker Art Books, 1981.This thick volume covers all of Chinese art and has some very good information about seals. Available from Amazon.
  • Wang, Pei-Yueh. The Art of seal carving. [Taipei?]: Council for Cultural Planning and Development, 1991.