MING DYNASTY, 17TH CENTURY
The seal is of irregular square shape and formed from one section of bamboo root. A stylised
frog is carved leaping out of the root stems. The seal face is carved in relief with four-characters
within a thin border reading Shitian shiri 矢天誓日 ‘Pledge to Heaven and Swear to the Sun.’ The
bamboo is deeply patinated to a lustrous chocolate brown colour.
The expression means absolute sincerity and complete reliability, the locus classicus of which seems to be an essay by Qian Qianyi 錢謙益 (1582-1664): He Wen sili shice xu 賀文司理詩冊 序 (Preface to a volume of poems congratulating Administrator for Public Order Wen), Muzhai chuxue ji 牧齋初學集 (Beginning Learner’s Literary Collection from the Shepherd’s Studio) (Shanghai: Guji chubanshe ), 35:999. Administrator for Public Order Wen had been indicted for official malfeasance and imprisioned, but his supporters, who expressed their loyalty to the emperor by “pledging to heaven and swearing to the sun,” managed to clear Wen’s name and have him released. As such, it seems likely that this is an official’s seal.
A Japanese Private Collection