An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yinjing 印經

Jun 12, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Yinjing 印經 "The book of seals" was written during the late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Zhu Jian 朱簡 (b. 1570), courtesy name Xiuneng 修能, style Jichen 畸臣, from Xiuning 休寧, Anhui. His name is often mentioned together with the famous scholars and artists of Li Liufang 李流芳 (1575-1629), Zhao Yiguang 趙宦光 (1559-1625) and Chen Jiru 陳繼儒 (1558-1639). Between 1597 and 1611, he wrote the book Yinpin 印品, which is a critique of ancient seal inscriptions. He also wrote other books and essays concerning the topic, like Yinjia congshuo 印家叢說, Yinzhang yaolun 印章要論, Ji Han mo yin wenzi 集漢摹印文字, Yintu 印圖, Xunge cangyin 菌閣藏印 or Xiuneng yinpu 修能印譜.

His Yinjin was completed in 1619. It consists actually of eight individual essays, but in combination, they give an overview of the early development of the Chinese script (Suyuan 溯源) and the meaning of the seal script, and explain the reason why Zhu wrote his book (Puxi 譜系), namely to fight against prevalent mistakes and practices. He then discusses the practice of seal carving and stresses important points (Xingxun 型訓), mainly in the use of a knife, with starting and ending points, curves and bows, or heavy and light spots, all displaying the "spirit of the brush" (Youren 遊刃). The copying of ancient seal inscriptions by studying them carefully (Linmo 臨摹) was the precondition of continuing their tradition through the ages (Zuanxu 纘緒), as happened by the works of famous scholar-experts on seals. The artistic evaluation of ancient seals (Xinshang 欣賞) had many different aspects, but the inscription had to stand above the appearance of the carrier. Finally, collectors and aficionados must have the ability to tell apart genuine seals from forgeries (Zhenwei 鍼僞), from two aspects, namely craft, and art.

Zhu's essay Yinzhang yaolun is a kind of supplement to the Yinjing and is in many editions attached to the latter. Both are found in the series Zhuanxue suozhu 篆學瑣著 and Lidai yinxue lunwen xuan 歷代印學論文選.

Hong Jinghui 洪敬輝 (1996). "Yinjing 印經", in Zhou Gucheng 周谷城, ed. Zhongguo xueshu mingzhu tiyao 中國學術名著提要, Vol. Yishu 藝術卷 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 520.
Fu Yuzhen 付玉貞 (2020). "Lüelun Chongzhen ban Yinjing, Yintu banben ji wenxian jiazhi 略論崇禎版《印經》《印圖》版本及文獻價值", Sichuan Tushuguan xuebao 四川圖書館學報, 2020 (6): 85-88.
Wang Chongren 王崇人, ed. (2002). Zhongguo shuhua yishu cidian 中國書畫藝術辭典, Vol. Zhuanke 篆刻卷 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin yishu chubanshe), 50, 183.