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Cover Stories Series 2012> Living, Breathing Heritage> Other Heritage Entries
UPDATED: September 30, 2011 NO. 40 OCTOBER 6, 2011
Art of Engraving
Chinese artist Luo Pengpeng showcases her new works of seal engraving

ART OF THE SEAL: A visitor is looking at the seal engraving works at the Chinese Museum of Women and Children in Beijing (BAI SHI)

An exhibition of Luo Pengpeng's seal engraving works, sponsored by the Ministry of Culture of China and the All-China Women's Federation, is being held at The Chinese Museum of Women and Children in Beijing from September 21 to October 5.

The "Magnificent Art on Everlasting Stones" exhibition showcases almost 100 seal engravings. Most of them were created by the famed seal-cutting artist Luo Pengpeng, the first postgraduate tutor and Executive Vice President of the Chinese Academy of Seal Engraving, the only institute in China that is authorized to teach seal engraving art.

Starting with a wall of 36 seals on which Luo sculpted the apothegms and sayings of ancient Chinese philosophers, the exhibition reveals a treasury of Chinese wisdom over thousands of years. Behind the wall, an array of square stone seals stands in the center of the hall, and other display cases and calligraphy scrolls surround the array. The combination of flat and cubic presents a new experience of the unique Chinese art to visitors.

In addition to seal engraving, Luo also has a good command of Chinese culture. She has consistently dedicated herself to exploring new methods or ideas to create seal engraving while preserving the brilliant cultural achievements of ancient China. Therefore, each of her works is a sophisticated complex of high-degree virtuosity, traditional culture and contemporary innovation.

Luo spares no effort to promote seal engraving. She was appointed to submit an application to United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) to include the art of Chinese seal engraving into the list of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2008. Through one year of hard work by Luo and her team, the art successfully won UNESCO recognition on September 30, 2009.

The art of seal engraving is a cornerstone of Chinese fine arts which enjoys a long history of more than 3,000 years. It requires a high degree of skill, since the artist works on a tiny surface area where every curve, every thickness of line counts. In addition, seal engraving usually combines calligraphy, painting, sculpture and literature on a tiny piece of stone, metal, wood or other material, embodying the ancient Chinese cultural essence. The very diverse motifs are the fruit of the artist's imagination and culture.

The seal was originally used as a signature or sign of authority. Gradually it came to be used by all social classes and in much of Asia. Even now, though information technology is so widely used, seal engraving still plays an important role in Chinese society. Most Chinese people still use a seal as their individual signature. One would be recognized as literate and well educated if he or she has a well-carved seal.

More and more Chinese companies are using seals for their company or brand logos in order to show their Chinese cultural features. The best known seal all over the world is perhaps the logo of the Beijing Olympics 2008, a seal with the image of a Tai Chi practitioner.

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