The history of Chinese seal carving can be dated back to the time of the Chow-Han Dynasty.Seal carvers of the modern times cannot often avoid making reference to the classical works of those renowned calligraphers in the Chow-Han or Ching Dynasty.
However, from the time after Han to Ching ( i.e. the Tong , Sung , Yuen Dynasty ) the use of seal for personal identification was less common. The art of seal carving then came to a dormant period in history.
Till Ching Dynasty, an atmosphere of renaissance gradually emerged along with the trend of archaeology development. Many educated people followed the old style and put seal-prints on their finished works of painting, writing and poetry.
Seal-chops are made of jade, ivory, or soft precious stones. The body of the chop can be of different sizes and shapes. The 'head' may be sculpted into shape of animal like fish, goat, lion, dragon, or any other symbolic image. Besides for use on traditional paintings and calligraphy, name seals are nowadays also used as a personal identification in money transactions and other bussiness matters.
Stone carving is one brilliant page in Chinese cultural and civilization history. Due to nature's inconceivable works and mankind craftmanship our predecessor had left behind for us the historical seal, which enhance the appreciation, admiration and sensation that follow the locus of beauty.
The Chinese stone carving consists of various kinds, it is difficult for us to introduce all kind of works in this brief introduction. The four significant kinds of stone carvings which are prominent in the Chinese stone craving history, are the following: QinTian stone carving, ShouShan stone carving, ChangHua stone craving and BaLing stone carving. Apropos of the natural stone carving is more intricate, no one can accurately calculate how many kinds of nature stones are out there. Furthermore, each individual's viewpoint of beauty is different we can only introduce merely the facture's knowledge which could help you to make the right choice when facing the work of Chinese stone craving.
The Chinese have had a love affair with jade - and other beautiful stones - for thousands of years. A 1988 exhibition at the China Institute in New York established dates for jade carving and use at over 7,000 years Before the Present (BP). The appeal of jade to the ancient Chinese was due to its toughness, lustre, multiplicity of colors and the transformation it underwent when heated. The burning of jades in pre-burial cremation ceremonies was essential for members of the ruling class in many areas and periods of ancient China. Confucius compared the qualities of jade to those of a cultured gentleman.
By most terms of history in China, snuff bottles are a relatively recent development. Tobacco reached China toward the end of the 16th Century. Similar in time to its’ introduction into England. When tobacco was converted into snuff is hard to say but by the mid seventeenth century seems to be likely. Customs records document that by 1685 snuff was entering China although it possibly may have been in use prior to that date. Snuff, however, did not come into common usage and was largely a habit of the upper classes. The Jesuits introduced its use at court and soon it became increasingly common among the court, rich landlords and merchants.
The Chinese believed that snuff possessed medicinal qualities and that its use helped to dispel colds, cure migraine, sinus and tooth pain, relieve throat trouble, cause sweats and counter asthma and constipation. Snuff was believed to be particularly an aid to digestion. Beijing was always the center of snuff usage in China. The "Hsiang tsu pi chi", a document written in the early 18th Century, notes that snuff was being manufactured in Beijing at this time. Mint, camphor and Jasmine were and still are added to snuff in China.
It was not until the eighteenth century that snuff-bottles began to be made in large numbers. The traditional shape for snuff bottles were that they were small enough to fit in the palm of the hand. Generally they were provided with a small spoon fixed in the stopper and capped usually with a hemispherical piece of jade. This later touch is undoubtedly a creation of the Chi’en Lung period. Snuff bottles are most probably an evolution of the small medicine bottles that are common from an earlier period and the earliest dated piece is 1653. Snuff bottles often have either the maker’s name or the date but rarely both are present together. A large number of Chinese snuff bottles carry the mark of Ch’ien Lung, but most of these were really made during the reign of Tao Kuang (1821-1850) or later. Further, most of the snuff bottles with the K’ang Hsi reign mark were made significantly later. All of the bottles with interior painting date much later and were made into the early years of the nineteenth century.
Snuff bottles are made of a wide variety of materials. These include coral, ivory, jade, jadeite, mother of pearl, lapis lazuli, quartz, malachite, agate, turquoise as well as gold, silver and many more exotic materials. Despite the number of exotic materials to chose from, glass remained the most popular substance to use and most surviving models are from this material. Glass was treated much differently by the Chinese during this period than it is today. The Chinese cut and polished it like a precious stone. By mixing metal oxides, the subsequent glass could be turned into exquisite glass sculptures. The glass for these works generally originated in Shantung although the cutting itself was done in Beijing.