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I came across an old teapot with inscriptions, but since I don’t speak Chinese, I have no means to know what is written on it.

There are two columns of five characters (four columns with twenty characters in total) on each side of the pot, and there is a seal on the bottom.

Could you please help me translate the inscriptions?

enter image description here

enter image description here

enter image description here

8

For the seal identification portion, as mentioned elsewhere, the characters are 汪寅仙製 (meaning made by 汪寅仙, a very famous Chinese ceramics artist who passed away earlier this year; whether it's really made by 汪寅仙 is another story, as many of these pieces are actually fakes).

「寅」is fairly recognisable in this carving, so I'll provide a breakdown of the other three characters.

This carved seal is slightly more difficult to read than normal, because of the characters being squashed into a circular shape, causing some components to be slightly distorted.


「汪」is a description of a body of water meaning vast and deep, and is comprised of

  • 「氵/水」, a semantic component;
  • 「㞷」simplified to「王」, a phonetic component.

「水」originally depicted flowing water:

enter image description here

This directly leads to the seal script form

enter image description here

Note that the modern component form「氵」is a drastically simplified version, and ancient scripts did not write this component in this manner for a long time.


「㞷」was the original character for「往」, and was a compound of

  • 「之」(to go), a semantic component, itself a compound of
    • 「止」(a depiction of a foot), a semantic component, and
    • 「一」(an abstraction of the ground), a semantic component
  • 「土」(a depiction of a lump of earth on the ground, meaning soil), a semantic component.

The total form emphasises the meaning to go (by travelling on foot covering ground distance).

「之」originally looked like

enter image description here

and an ancestral variant of「之」looked like「㞢」; the following is a few samples of the shape to provide an idea of the relation between the shapes:

enter image description here

「土」originally looked like

enter image description here

but it was subject to some shape changes:

enter image description here

A similar change actually happened to「十」, which morphed almost exactly like the top part of「土」. Note that these are not strictly how the character evolved, so don't over-interpret these sequences.

The original forms lead to the combination

enter image description here

and the shape of「㞷」should be seen as coming directly from「㞢」and「土」. This directly leads on to the seal script shape

enter image description here

Note that the top-right part of this component in the original image is cut off to fit inside the circle.


「仙」is comprised of

  • 「亻/人」, a semantic component;
  • 「山」, a phonetic component.

「人」is a side view of a standing person:

enter image description here

This directly leads on to the seal script shape

enter image description here

Note that the left side of this component is distorted to fit inside the circle.


「山」was originally a depiction of mountain peaks:

enter image description here

The side peaks eventually simplified into vertical lines, leaving the middle peak in seal script:

enter image description here


「製」is comprised of

  • 「制」(originally to chop wood), both a semantic and phonetic component, itself comprised of

    • 「未」(the fragrant smell of a blooming tree (now written「味」)), a semantic component;
    • 「刂/刀」(a blade, indicating the meaning to cut), a semantic component.
  • 「衣」(clothes), a semantic component.


「未」originally depicted a tree「木」with extra branches, representing blooming, and by extension the fragrance of blooming trees:

enter image description here

For stylistic reasons, the bottom of「未」(and similarly 木, 本, ...) morphed into something resembling「巾」, leading to the seal script form

enter image description here

Extras:

  • In modern regular script, the bottom of 木 and 本 didn't retain「巾」, while「制」did retain this shape.
  • In「制」,「未」is just used for its shape as a tree, not its meaning of「味」(fragrance).

「刀」was originally a picture of a knife or blade:

enter image description here

This directly leads on to the seal script form

enter image description here


「衣」was originally a picture of clothing:

enter image description here

This directly leads on to the seal script form

enter image description here


To summarise:

enter image description here

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    +1, very nice picture! – dan Jun 29 '18 at 14:23
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No idea on the first picture as it seems to be ancient writing.

However, for the 2nd and 3rd picture, it is a famous poem from this guy - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_Bai

Night Thoughts (靜夜思)

床前明月光,   Bright shines the Moon before my bed;
疑是地上霜,   Methinks ’tis frost upon the earth.
舉頭望明月,   I watch the Moon, then bend my head
低頭思故鄉。   And miss the hamlet of my birth.
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The seal is

汪寅仙製

which means made by 汪寅仙

  • This question (zhidao.baidu.com/question/548187372.html) looks for the name you suggest (淮寅仙), but one of the answers there says it should be read 汪寅伯, like @droooze wrote in his comment. It’s interesting because both variants are mentioned on that same page, and they both show up in this question as well. – Philipp Jun 29 '18 at 8:52
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    @Philipp I agree with 汪... But the third character is actually 仙 – Toosky Hierot Jun 29 '18 at 8:55
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    @Philipp 仙 is correct because 汪寅仙 is actually the name of an artist. I interpreted it as 伯 because that is a valid way to write 伯 and 仙 doesn’t usually sound like it should appear in someone’s name. – droooze Jun 29 '18 at 9:07
  • Here is the introduction of the artist 汪寅仙:baike.baidu.com/item/%E6%B1%AA%E5%AF%85%E4%BB%99/… – Bruce Huang Jun 29 '18 at 12:20
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The inscriptions are actually a poem written by Li Bai (李白). It was originally written in the Tang Dynasty (唐朝). The poem is called 靜夜思.

The poem goes as follows:

Night Thoughts (Thoughts in the Still of the Night)

The Moon shines brightly before my bed;

It looks like there is a layer of frost on the ground.

I look up to the sky and see the bright moon,

Then look back, thinking of my home village.

The Chinese version (original version) goes as follows:

靜夜思

床前明月光,

疑是地上霜,

擧頭望明月,

低頭思故鄉。

The poem is in an AABA rhyme style, which means the last character of the first, second, and fourth line rhyme.

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