I bought a figure of a taoist wise some years ago, and in all these years I have been unable to decipher the tiny seal (1cm x 1cm) under the figure.

It is an important figure in my life and I would be extremely thankful if somebody could help me to understand the meaning of the text. The figure is holding some kind of receptacle (a bowl) in his hand and has a cloud carved on his back.

I have been looking at the dictionary to decipher the characters under 林, and the most similar characters I have found are ji 己, and qiǎo 丂… but I am not sure if these can be the correct ones… I guess it is very difficult to "translate" a proper name…

The seal


The figure

Enhanced drawing by @Daniel Cheung

Edit: found clearer picture of seal

enter image description here

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    A hand-drawn copy of a seal is definitely the most original form of "research effort" I've seen in a translation request. :) Aug 4 '15 at 16:46
  • Is this seal on some sort of wooden material? Can you show the full piece?
    – Meruemu
    Aug 4 '15 at 20:15
  • Thank you very much for the promptness of your answer. I did a drawing because the seal's size is 1 cm x 1 cm and no photograph satisfied me. I don't think it is made of wood, because of its weight. It seems a "stony" material… I apologize for my ignorance regarding materials, history of these kind of seals… Although I began years ago the study of Chinese ideograms, I couldn't find the meaning of these characters… (the only one I thought I deciphered was "forest"…) I thought they were "old" characters… I attach one more photo of the figure, and I will try to take a better one of the seal. And Aug 4 '15 at 22:18
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    The photo and drawing of the seal are pretty good actually. No need for another photo of the seal. I just wanted to see if there are any other hints on the figure to understand the seal. And you are right, the characters are in an "old" font which used especially for the seals which called 篆zuan, so the seal carving are also called 篆刻. It's a pity that most of Chinese (including me) could not understand characters in 篆 font. But seal carving is an amazing art. See my original answer for a link to seal carving dictionary. link is too long... :)
    – Meruemu
    Aug 4 '15 at 22:57
  • I was stupid thinking it would be a wooden material...Though it's not entirely impossible, it's too soft for seal carving.
    – Meruemu
    Aug 4 '15 at 23:01

I've managed to find something based on Meruemu's answer:

尸(刂/攵)  林
?          ?

製    印

enter image description hereenter image description here

Top-Left Discussion

However, the top-left glyph has a similarity to this: enter image description here (廠), mostly the bottom-left part and the right radical.

Also, the top-left glyph has a similarity to this: enter image description here (居), the left part is mostly the same. I wonder, could the top left glyph be the Simplified Chinese character "剧"? The Traditional Chinese glyph is: enter image description here. Or in seal font: enter image description here. Isn't it an exceptional similarity?

Top-Right Discussion

The glyph looks like: enter image description here (梵)enter image description here (楚)

The Seal I've Drawn

I thought the original drawn picture hasn't capture every detail of the seal so I've decided to draw one from the image given.

The photo of the one I've drawn

enter image description here

Digitally enhanced

enter image description here

  • The characters 尸 (meaning "corpse") and 刂 (radical for "knife"). Thank you for your contribution. I am still searching for the character under 尸, and under 林… And yes, 製 印 confirms Meruemu's translation as: "Made the seal"… A question: Why do you have included 攵? I don't find its meaning… Thanks. Aug 12 '15 at 23:09
  • @ChristianTubau It is actually another form of this : zdic.net/z/1a/js/6534.htm Aug 13 '15 at 8:18
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    @ChristianTubau However I disagree that the top-left glyph is "年", because I don't think this particular sculpture was in royal places and is old enough that would make sense to have a year made seal. Also, the fact that the bottom-right glyph is clearly a "印" character, it only make sense for the seal to be read horizontally, either in a swirl direction or simply right to left. Aug 20 '15 at 5:17
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    @ChristianTubau Also, I was only stating that the glyph "looks" like those in the images. They are clearly not the same one because it would not make sense 1. A Taoism sculpture to have a Buddhism symbol; 2. A simplified character to appear in the past because this particular one seemed to have been created by the PRC. Aug 20 '15 at 5:20
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    I agree with all your comments. The character cannot be "nian", nor one related with Buddhism. Thank you very much for your useful contribution. I will keep looking for a possible translation of the upper glyphs. Aug 20 '15 at 16:34

A Chinese seal usually follows the format of XX之印 “The Seal of XX” or XX制印 “The was made by XX” (where XX is a name). This seal follows the latter format.

The top part probably is the name of the seal maker and the upper part of the top-right character is 林. The bottom two characters are most likely to be "制印", meaning "made the seal". Will complete this answer after finding out/confirming all the characters on this seal.

Seal carving dictionary:


  • Thank you very much. I will try to take a better photo of the seal. Aug 4 '15 at 22:28
  • I have added a better image to my first post. I hope it is useful. Thanks for your help. Aug 4 '15 at 22:57

Ni idee que dice el sello, pero lo he cambiado por el negativo, de esa manera quizás más fácil leerlo, porque estos son los caracteres.

No idea what it says, but I changed the image for itś negative, this way it may be easier to read, because these are the characters.

enter image description here

  • Indeed easier to read!
    – Meruemu
    Aug 5 '15 at 17:07
  • I have been looking at the dictionary to decipher the characters under 林, and the most similar characters I have found are ji 己, and qiǎo 丂… but I am not sure if these can be the correct ones… I guess it is very difficult to "translate" a proper name… Aug 5 '15 at 17:22
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    This doesn't actually answer the question per se (as far as I can tell), so perhaps it might be better applied as an edit to the original question?
    – user5714
    Aug 7 '15 at 23:59
  • This answer is contributing to the research effort, @Maroon. I think it's helpful.
    – Don Kirkby
    Aug 8 '15 at 4:11
  • @DonKirkby: hmmm that makes sense (although I'm still not entirely sure if I agree). I've seen similar things on other sites (e.g. "this should be taken as a supplement to the other answer"), but was less put off by those since in those there was an element of implicitly providing a complete solution to the question.
    – user5714
    Aug 8 '15 at 4:14

A collector maie just put me on the trail of your site and on this page. It so happens that I too have a similar character bearing this seal in sigillary characters. In my opinion, the character is Lao Tzu or Confucius and he wears on his back a turtle shell with a text (the Yiking probably). A saber divides the book in two, it is fixed in a mat. The material may be a carved steatite or a harder stone. Lao-tseu?[![la signature[![Vue de côté[![Yi King ?]2]3]4

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