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‘Centenary of Xiling Seal Engraver’s Society’ Exhibition to Open in Budapest

Fanni Kaszás 2018.08.23.

An exhibition titled ‘Centenary of Xiling Seal Engraver’s Society’ featuring traditional Chinese seals, painting and calligraphy will open in Budapest on 3 September 2018. The Xiling Seal Engraver’s Society and Sino-European Foundation of Chinese Culture and Education will host the exhibition.

Founded in 1904 by epigraphists like Ding Ren, Wang Yi, Ye Ming and Wu Yin, the Xiling Seal Engraver’s Society is regarded as the earliest, most influential and successful research organization of inscription, Chinese painting and calligraphy. As the main representative of the Art of Chinese Seal Engraving, the society is celebrating its 100th year by showcasing some of the most unique and outstanding traditional Chinese art to audiences around the world. After successful exhibitions in Los Angeles, Paris, Rome, Madrid, Ankara, The Hague and Colombo, the Society plans to display the seals and calligraphies in Budapest.

Zhang Xingjian / China Daily

The Chinese seal is an important carrier of Chinese history and has been commonly used in the social lives of the Chinese people for over a thousand years. It can be traced back more than 3,000 years to the Shang Dynasty by the pictographic characters and simple decorative patterns found engraved into bronze and tortoise shells to record and preserve records of economic, military, and administrative functions. The seals also serve as a personal signature for their owner, or more significantly, as the symbol of legitimacy for a ruler or someone of high social status. They are often used on Chinese calligraphy works and Chinese paintings to indicate ownership.

The art of seal engraving is a cornerstone of Chinese fine arts. The seal was originally used as a signature or sign of authority, but it came to be used by all social classes in much of Asia. The Seal Engraver’s Society of Xiling in Zhejiang Province, central China, which was founded a century ago, preserves the art of seal engraving along with approximately a hundred other specialized institutions. The design is first sketched on paper and then engraved on stone in reverse with a knife. In addition to mastery of traditional calligraphy, the art of engraving requires a high degree of virtuosity since the artist works on a tiny surface area where every curve and thickness of line counts. The very diverse motifs are the fruit of the artist’s imagination and culture. As an instrument of calligraphy and painting, the seal is a work of art in itself. It expresses an entire culture’s ideas about humankind and nature. Today, seals continue to be used in official documents and private correspondence. Even though those understanding the complex characters are ever fewer, the art of seal engraving is still practiced by both professionals and amateurs.

The opening ceremony of the exhibition will be held on 3 September 2018 from 3.30 p.m. in the National Széchényi Library, with invitees including the representatives of the Ministry of Human Capacities; Jielong Duan, Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China to Hungary; Géza Szőcs, special adviser to the Hungarian Prime Minister’s Office on China; Hongwei Wang, Head of Xiling Seal Engraver’s Society;  and Anni Gao, President of the Sino-European Foundation of Chinese Culture and Education, as well as sinologists and artists. The exhibition is open for visitors from until 14 September.