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Yinrenzhuan 印人傳, Xu yinren zhuan 續印人傳 and Guang yinren zhuan 廣印人傳

Nov 22, 2015 © Ulrich Theobald

The book Yinrenzhuan 印人傳 is a collection of biographies of seal carvers written by Zhou Lianggong 周亮工 (1612-1672), courtesy name Yuanliang 元亮, style Liyuan 櫟園, Tao'an 陶庵 or Jianzhai 減齋). Apart from this book he also wrote a "brush-notes"-style essay called Yinshuwushu ying 因樹屋書影. His collected writings are called Laigutang ji 賴古堂集.

Zhou himself was a great admirer of seal carving and published notes on his own collection with the title Laigutang yinpu 賴古堂印譜.

His biographical collection presents the lives and artworks of 60 (plus 3 in an appendix) seal carvers, beginning with Wen Tianxiang 文天祥 (1236-1283) from the Song period. The name of one carver is unknown. A list in the appendix adds the names of 61 persons, without presenting their biographies. It can be observed that from the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) on it was artists like Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 (1254-1322, better known as a painter) or Wuqiu Yan 吾丘衍 (1272-1311) who became professionals of this genre of artwork, while the number of "hobbyists" declined. Among the artists, certain schools (zongpai 宗派) took shape among which certain styles were fashionable. Besides the short biographies of the artists, the texts adds information on their artwork, including the author's judgment about their style and excellence. The book was not finished when Zhou Lianggong died. It was only brought to completion by his son Zhou Zaijun 周在浚 (fl. 1675).

The earliest print of this book of 3 juan of length dates from the mid-Kangxi reign-period 康熙 (c. 1700).

In the later eithteenth century Wang Qishu 汪啓淑 (1728-1799) wrote a supplement of 8 juan called Xu yinren zhuan 續印人傳, presenting the biographies and art of 129 seal carvers, and the names of a further 61 persons. A second supplement of 16 juan (and one supplementary fascicle), with the title Guang yinren zhuan 廣印人傳, was written by Ye Weiming 葉爲銘 (1866-1948). This book includes the texts of Zhou and Wang, and adds up to a total sum of more than 1,800 names of seal carvers.

The Yinrenzhuan is found in the series Cuilangganguan congshu 翠琅玕館叢書, Yuyuan congshu 芋園叢書, Fengyulou congshu 風雨樓叢書 and Zhuanxue congshu 篆學叢書.

Ma Guoquan 馬國權 (1931-2002) edited a book on "modern" seal carvers, Jindai yinren zhuan 近代印人傳, published in 1998 (Shanghai: Shanghai shuhua chubanshe).

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