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I was requested by a friend to find out what this stamp is. Do you know what it says on the stamp?

enter image description here

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A stab in the dark "雨东凰严爪男". –  Question Overflow May 13 '13 at 9:56
    
@QuestionOverflow Put it in an answer, you might get 100 points :) –  Stumpy Joe Pete May 23 '13 at 21:03
    
@StumpyJoePete, I am quite sure it is not correct. Just a wild guess :) –  Question Overflow May 27 '13 at 8:53
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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted
+100

After discussing it with my friends, the best result I can come up with now is

Analysis of the stamp

The characters beside the stamp characters are the corresponding ones that may be the candidates. Seal script samples are also given. Unfortunately, I cannot find a 100% convincing answer, because they can hardly form a meaningful phrase.

Character 1: 聞 or 查. Either is doubtful. If it's 查, it means the craftsman treat the vertical 丨 in 木 as two separate parts, then Character 5 will quite possibly be 木.

Character 2: 男. It's very doubtful because there're too many horizontals 一 in 田. I am almost sure it can't be 甲, because adding one important stroke 𠃑 into 甲 is very unreasonable.

Character 3: 天 or 引. Either is possible.

Character 4: 下 or 爪. Either is very possible. Specially, if if Character 3 is 天 and this is 下, 天下(the world, land under heaven) is meaningful.

Character 5: 木 or 大. Either is doubtful.

Character 6: 子. Well, it's the most confirmed one.

What I should clarify is that I don't mean the candidate characters are just what I am listing. There may be some more acceptable ones. This Chinese Etymology website may be a helpful tool for you.

I agree with Xu's arguments partly:

  • The scripts are seal characters or bronze characters.

  • There may be extra squiggles adding to the characters.

  • A Character may be separated into two (seldom larger than two) parts and written as individual two characters. In the stamp, there may be one case: 李=木+子.

But the case of the zigzag reading order 1-2-4-3-5-6 is really seldom. I personally believe it's in this order: 1-2-3-4-5-6, or less possible, 1-3-5-2-4-6.

Jens's answer, , are not so similar to the character shapes in the stamp (notice that there's no 凰 in seal scripts; in ancient Chinese, it will use an "interchangeable" character 皇 instead).

EDIT

Character 5 may be also 北.

bei

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3/4 as 天下 would be a good candidate as it was a common word. –  dda May 27 '13 at 13:05
    
@dda: in fact, being common is not a good criterion for recognizing seal characters on a stamp, because they are usually formed in the ancient Chinese wording or phrasing style (it also depends on how the stamp would be used). 天下 doesn't make much sense combining other characters on this stamp -- so it is still unsolved. –  Stan May 27 '13 at 14:12
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Here's my guess:

祥·鳯
雲·凰

The middle pair doesn't seem to be characters at all.

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It can hardly be like that: 1) there're 6 characters on the stamp; 2) the shapes are very different. –  Stan May 25 '13 at 18:01
    
@Stan 1) As I mentioned: the middle pair might not even be characters. 2) The task is to decipher an ornamental script, so it seems to me your comment is unfounded. –  Jens Jensen May 26 '13 at 21:18
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Sorry, my comment wasn't stated clearly. First, the reason that the middle pair should be characters, is a) I can actually find some seal characters very similar to them, and b) they are not symmetrical to fit the ancient Chinese aesthetics rules to be decorative patterns. Second, 鳳凰祥雲, the four characters are not written in the seal script like that---what I am quite sure now is that the characters in that stamp are seal characters. –  Stan May 27 '13 at 7:22
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I don't quite catch you ... It sounds like a historical question. Before Qin dynasty, seal scripts are various, so one regular script we use today can map to many types of seal scripts used in ancient China -- but on contrast, one seal script maps only one regular script used today. Interchangeable characters are exceptions, but they are not so many. I hope this may be helpful to you :) –  Stan May 27 '13 at 10:33
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@JensJensen there may have been many "seal scripts" or what may be accurately referred to as contemporary scripts around the Zhou to Qin dynasties, but we know very little since the violent unification of China during Qin involved a lot of book burning and purging of non-Qin scripts. The huge variety of oracle bone scripts would suggest a similarly large variety of scripts before the Qin destruction. I would guess that modern stamps however tend to be embellishments of the standard seal script rather than resurrecting dead unknown scripts. –  congusbongus May 27 '13 at 10:58
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I don't have a complete answer but this is as far as I got, it was a lot of fun and hopefully this may help others. I feel that some real expertise will be needed to solve this puzzle!

查甲木引大子

There's some very fun tools which generate Chinese stamps in various scripts, which I used to make this image, which is as close as I got:

enter image description here

What's more important is that the characters make no sense! Perhaps they are encoding a person's name or date/time of birth using the Four pillars of destiny (生辰八字).

Some other information:

  • The reading order is irregular; it seems to zigzag starting from the top right
  • The script is similar to seal script
  • The script used in stamps is often highly embellished by the craftsmen, so often has extra "squiggles" compared to the seal script characters
  • A lot of stamps break up the radicals of characters and write them individually, making the stamp seem like it has more characters. For example the surname might be carved on a stamp as 弓长. No indication whether that was done on this stamp however.

Some extra information would definitely help a lot, such as:

  • Who was the owner of this stamp
  • When was it made
  • What was it used for
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Except 子, other characters are doubtful. I think you may like this site internationalscientific.org –  Stan May 26 '13 at 17:16
    
The carving tool is very helpful! –  PIM Geek May 27 '13 at 10:42
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