Chapter V The antique-like seal script
Section I   An Overview of Seal Script
Seal script took its primitive form at the late years of Western Zhou period, became popular in the state of Qin in Eastern Zhou period, prospered during the reign of Qinshihuang and began to decline in Han Dynasty.
Seal script is divided into the Greater Seal Script (大篆—dà zhuàn)and Minor Seal Script (小篆—xiǎo zhuàn). Both inscriptions on stone drum and some Qin inscriptions on bronze are considered greater seal script. Greater seal script is also referred to as “籀文—zhòu wén”, so named because a book series for children to recite compiled by a historian official is entitled 《史籀篇》in Chinese, the word 籀 means to recite. There were fifteen articles, but all of them were lost, we can only find some 220 single characters in 《说文解字—Explaination and Interpretation of Characters》. All historians agree that this book was written in the greater seal script.
A sample of greater seal script—
Inscriptions on Maogong tripot
Minor seal script was being used in the state of Qin, when Qin unified the entire country, they introduced the policy of “书同文—to write in the same script” and discarded all those that were not identical to minor seal script. Being the first nationally unified written language, the minor seal script is more abstract. It is simpler, slimer and contains more strength. The representative work of minor seal script the stele inscription by Li Si (李斯—Lǐ Sī ?-208 BC), the Prime Minister of Qin, to mark the Qinshihuang’s (the first Emperor of Qin Dynasty) sacrificial offerrings to the heavenly and earth deities at Taishan Mountain.




Samples of Minor Seal Script
Part of Taishan Stone Carving (above)
Part of Yishan Stone Carving (right)
Li Si, who should be regarded as China’s first calligrapher, not onlyexerted great influence in developing minor seal script, but also played a key role in unifying the country. Aside from Taishan Stele inscription, his other calligraphy works were Langya stele inscription and an article entitled “On Cang Jie”.
Section II   Composition of “Xiao Zhuan”
Minor seal secript characters tend to be longer, its horizontal strokes are always even and verticals straight. The structure is upright. Symmetry is the most striking feature of its structure; vertically the characters are in lines and horizontally they are in rows.
Most famous minor seal script masters we should know are:
Li Yangbing (李阳冰,Lǐ Yángbīng, dates of birth and death not available) of Tang Dynasty, has been reputed as a Xiao Zhuan master only next to Li Si.
Zhao Mengfu (赵孟頫, Zhào Mèmgfǔ, 1254-1322) of Yuan Dynasty.
Wang Shu (王澍,Wáng Shù, 1668-1743) of Qing Dynasty, most accomplished in Xiao Zhuan.
Deng Shiru (邓石如,Dèng Shírū, 1743-1805) of Qing Dynasty is a highly regarded master of Xiao Zhuan for his unique overpowering style.
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