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Seal of the Clerk

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Period: Warring States Period (475-222 BCE)
Medium: green jade
Date: undated
Dimensions: height: 1.35 cm, seal surface: 1.8×1.8 cm

With nose-shaped knob, this jade seal's characters are carved intaglio in traditional script of the Warring States Period. The legend reads "Seal of the clerk" or "Jiguan zhixi", indicating it was for the official in charge of keeping records or accounts. The characters in seal script are straight and forceful. The surface of the seal is framed with an incised line. Such a design imitated the circle decoration on the coinage of that period. The green jade is translucent, yet has some natural striations: the close lines resemble willow branches waving in the wind, while the scattered ones appear to be flowing clouds. 
  At present, most extant official seals of the Warring States era are made of copper. Traditionally, people usually wore a seal with his name and placed it in the tomb as a burial accessory. Due to the rigid regulation of seals after the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.-220 B.C.E.), official seals used in sacrifices were mostly reproductions. Until now, no known record delineates the system of official seals during the Warring States, however, there presumably was a complicated system. In addition, most unearthed jade seals of the Warring States come from the Chu Kingdom.   
  Considered a burial reproduction of an official seal of the early Warring States period, this seal was formerly in the collection of the jade master Ni Yushu. After getting the seal, Ni wrote, "I am extremely gratified. Some objects that I had heard of but had no chance to see, or those that I saw but were not for sale, I did not take seriously; they did not move me. However, seeing a seal like this, and being able to purchase it, but not able to decide, really causes me mental suffering and chaos. It disrupts my routine. It's influence is great. This one is no exception." Mr. Ni's words show his enthusiasm for the present seal. He, however, mistakenly identified it as one for a postal official and from the early Han dynasty.

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