enter image description hereenter image description hereCould anyone please help me, I got a painting as a gift, and I tried to find the meaning of the poem and seals on my painting but it didn’t succeed.

enter image description here

  • both the seal were the painter's (陳挺) authentication. provided the seals are "authentic", this painting would be treated as "painted by mr 陳", not others. the sad situation nowadays is: there're enough fake products in "that area", for evaluation, i would suggest you contact any overseas auction house, the main point, not a auction house from that area. Jul 1, 2018 at 15:42
  • top right is 有 (u+6709) humanum.arts.cuhk.edu.hk/Lexis/lexi-mf/search.php?word=有 Jul 1, 2018 at 16:06
  • @水巷孑蠻 thank you very much for your help! It was a gift, I don’t want to sell it, I just wanted to find out the meanings of the poem, the painter (seals) and approximate age, area, etc, for myself. ) That’s why I asked you guys here for help.
    – Joe
    Jul 1, 2018 at 16:12
  • i see, the new provided seal is 有所不?, wait Jul 1, 2018 at 16:14

2 Answers 2


it's not a poem. just a record of who send a gift to who.

read from top to bottom, right to left,

武夷雪花泉 : a spring named snow flake (雪花泉) in mountain 武夷, in hokkien province

建樹先生惠存 : 建樹 is the name of recipient, 先生 is used as a respectful term. 惠存, roughly a courteous term for "receive & keep"

薛靈敬贈 : the sender's surname (薛) & name (靈), sending (贈) with respect (敬)

甲子年冬日 : 甲子 is the first entry of sexagenary cycle, for indicating year, it's 1984, 1924, or any sixty years earlier. in context, it's 1984, cause the painter born in 1911, died in 1992, it's very unlikely the painter did it in 1924 (he's just 14 years old).

冬日 means in winter (winter 冬, day 日)

陳挺作 : 陳挺 (1910-1992) the name of the painter, 作 means fabricate (paint, in this context)

about the seal, the first one is provided by drooze :)

here's some afterthought about how:

1 must, and only use traditional chinese to decipher

2 determine how many characters the seal has

this one is simple, only two characters

3 determine which "ideographic description sequences" a character has

the unicode defined some structures, that how a traditional chinese character is written (u+2ff0 - u+2ffb)

eg, the left character of the first seal is ⿳, above, middle and below

the above is 艸 (u+8278), the below is 口 (u+53e3), the middle might be hard to recognise, never mind, one could guess it by listing possible choices, cause this character would be in the radical 艸 (140th).

so, only 苔, 苕, 若, 苦, 苫, 茖, 茗, 茩, 荅, 莒, 莕, 莙 has the below 口


then, checking the seal script of these 12 characters would show that

若 (u+82e5) matched.


again, the right character of the first seal is ⿰, left & right; with the right part is ⿵ surround from above (or ⿱, top & bottom)

the left component is 人 (u+4eba), the right bottom is 口 (u+53e3); so, the choices are:

估, 佁, 佑, 佔, 佫, 佮, 佶, 佸, 侶, 俉, 俗, 信, 倍, 倜, 偌, 傛


then, 倜 (u+501c) matched.


when a character can't be recognised by first sight, the above method might help :)


the third seal has four characters, the first three are "有所不"

top right: 有


bottom right: 所


top left: 不


bottom left character is not recognised at first glance :(

wait :)

OK, the last one is 及 (u+53ca)


this one is in early spring and autumn style.

together, the seal "有所不及" was also used by the painter 陳挺.

have fun :)

  • Thank you very much for your help! Would be interesting to know, what is on the two seals... In this text isn’t written the exact names of the sender and the receiver?
    – Joe
    Jun 30, 2018 at 16:31
  • I think ? ? is the same as the second seal.
    – dROOOze
    Jun 30, 2018 at 22:53
  • I think It isn't 甲子季冬日 but 甲子年冬日? Jul 1, 2018 at 3:26
  • 1
    you get it :) the second one is 陳挺 Jul 1, 2018 at 4:40
  • 1
    色, no lah, the top component looks like 刀, which is misleading :( i get it when i shift my attention to the bottom component, which looks like a 又-手 Jul 1, 2018 at 16:39

The seal characters in the picture are of two styles:

enter image description here

Here, the characters are 倜若, written in the standard Qin-Han Seal script onwards.

enter image description here

Here, the characters are 陳挺 written in a style found in the Late Western Zhou-Spring and Autumn-Warring States Period. Note that this stamp is a bit worn out.

倜若 is the courtesy name of 陳挺, who is an Arts Professor at the Fujian Research Institute of History.

(Thanks @水巷孑蠻 for pointing some of these things out)

「倜」is constructed from

  • 「亻/人」, a semantic component (seal form explanation given in this answer);
  • 「周」, a phonetic component (Compare Old Chinese「倜」/*tʰɯːwɢ/ and「周」/*tjɯw/).

「周」was originally a picture of fields, like「田」, but with dots:

enter image description here

The meaning is preserved in terms to do with perimeter, referring to the arrangement of the fields.

Eventually,「口」was added to the bottom of the shape (seal form explanation given in this answer).

enter image description here

This was done in several characters to mark the name of a State (here, this refers to the Zhou Dynasty; other examples are「商」for the Shang Dynasty and「曹」for the State of Cao, where「口」later morphed into「曰」). At one stage, 「周」was written with the same shape as「用」, which was originally a depiction of a bucket (now written「桶」).

enter image description here

(Left)「用」; (Right)「周」. Note that ancient scripts commonly did not distinguish between mirror images of characters, so these two should be considered as the same shape.

This shape, along with the addition of「口」, directly leads on to the seal script form

enter image description here

「若」originally meant to submit, and was a depiction of a person with messy hair and hands up in the air in a submissive position:

enter image description here

The seal script form is constructed from

  • 「艸」, where the messy hair was interpreted as the same shape as「屮」(picture of a sprouting plant) then reduplicated into「艸」(picture of plants),
  • 「右」, itself constructed from
    • 「𠂇」, either morphed from the body of the person into or completely replaced by a picture of a right hand,
    • 「口」, an added mark.

「屮」originally depicted a sprouting plant:

enter image description here

This directly leads on to the seal script form

enter image description here

and two of these become

enter image description here

In「右」,「𠂇」was originally a depiction of a right hand:

enter image description here

「口」was later added to distinguish「𠂇」from「右」, which was used to represent a word meaning assist (now written「佑」). This directly leads to the seal script form

enter image description here

「陳」is constructed from

  • 「阝/阜」, a semantic component;
  • 「東」; the purpose of this component is unclear.

The character in the image provided was first seen as a creation by Duke Li of Chen from the Warring States period to use as a surname, which has an extra「土」:

enter image description here

In the seal in the original image,

  • 「土」would have been recognisable if not for the seal being slightly worn out;
  • The component「東」was possibly corrupted, as there as an extra line on the top. A similarly corrupted form is found below:

    enter image description here

「阜」may have originally depicted one of the following:

  • Rows of hills;
  • A ladder;
  • Foot grips from climbing access to mountainous residences.

    enter image description here

In any case, the original form that matches the seal most closely is

enter image description here

This directly leads on to bronze inscriptions around the Spring and Autumn period looking like

enter image description here

「東」was originally a depiction of a bag, tied at the ends:

enter image description here

This directly leads on to bronze inscriptions around the Spring and Autumn Period looking like

enter image description here

For reference, the seal script form looks like

enter image description here

「挺」is constructed from

  • 「手」, a semantic component;
  • 「廷」, a phonetic component.

「手」was first found in bronze inscriptions, and is a depiction of a hand from the fingers to the wrist.

enter image description here

This is the form found in the image. For reference, a seal script form looks like

enter image description here

「廷」was the original character for「庭」(front courtyard), and originally depicted a person「人」standing a distance away from a building, where the front part of the building is the「𠃊」shape and the distance is represented by「土」:

enter image description here

This is the form found in the image. A bronze inscription explanation of the shape of「土」is given in this answer. For reference, a seal script form of「廷」looks like

enter image description here

Here,「人」was changed into「𡈼」(tǐng) to give a sound hint (in modern Mandarin, compare「廷」tíng and「挺」also tǐng).「𠃊」was corrupted to「廴」, which happened in other characters like「建」as well.

To summarise:

enter image description here

  • 1
    excellent :) just adding info: the two seal styles are called 白文印 / 陰文印 (white character on red background), and 朱文印 / 陽文印 (red character on white background) Jul 1, 2018 at 15:28
  • Thank you very much! Amazing knowledge... Can you please help me, due to my very limited knowledge, how would it be possible to translate the seals? Who’s seal is this?
    – Joe
    Jul 1, 2018 at 15:33
  • @Joe the second seal (陳挺) is the name of the person who wrote this letter, as mentioned by 水巷孑蠻's answer (BTW please accept that answer as it interpreted the entire text); the brush calligraphy letter finishes with 陳挺作. I don't have any idea who/what the first seal 倜若 is mentioning, sorry - it might be another person involved in the letter-writing, someone who supervised the delivery, or one of the parties involved in the sending or receiving. You'd need to provide more context behind this piece for one of us to give an explanation (if possible).
    – dROOOze
    Jul 1, 2018 at 15:41
  • 1
    "倜若" is 陳挺's 字 (courtesy name). here's his info: fjwsg.com/mechanism/biography/successive/350.html Jul 1, 2018 at 15:45
  • @droooze it is a painting, and the poem is in one of the corners with the seals. There’s an other seal in the other corner as well, but I couldn’t upoload the photo somehow. I was thinking it is the seal of the painter (name of the painter), that’s why I tried to understand the characters, but I couldn’t do it myself.
    – Joe
    Jul 1, 2018 at 15:48

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