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Scholar's Implements


QING DYNASTY (1644-1911)

The seal is made from a twisted irregular bamboo root section with one end naturally broken off forming a rest for the thumb and the other end carved with a seal face. The seal face is carved in relief inset within a thin border with the characters 不為昭昭申節 “The junzi 君子 [noble man] does not proffer ritual etiquette only when obvious”.

This very Confucian slogan also puns on the nature of the bamboo, out of which the seal is made, for the original meaning of jie 節 “ritual etiquette” are the nodes or joints in bamboo: “the bamboo does not proffer/offer/extend its joints in order to show off”. The “joints” are what gives the bamboo its strength, just as dedicated ritual etiquette is the mark of integrity in the noble man. The seal face inscription reads 不為昭昭申節, but the phrase quoted in various sources also has shen 伸 and xin 信 instead of shen 申; shen 申 and shen 伸 are interchangeable and mean the same, but the actual locus classicus , Liu Xiang (79-8 B.C.E.), ed, Lienü zhuan 列女傳 (Biographies of Exemplary Women), entry on Wei Ling furen 衛靈夫人 “Wife of Ling of Wei” has xin 信 “steadfast”:

See Liu Xiang, ed., Lienü zhuan (Sibu congkan ed.), 3:10a. Xinjie 信節 “steadfast moral integrity” is replaced on the seal face with shenjie 申節 “proffer ritual etiquette”, which is how many later texts correct the passage in the Lienü zhuan when they quote it—since from the context this seems to make more sense, that is, Qu Boyu’s behavior is evidently a matter of consistent adherence to expectations of ritual etiquette, and only indirectly to moral integrity.

The seal is patinated to a reddish caramel tone.

A Japanese Private Collection

清代 竹根印章印文