Small Seal Script
|Small Seal Script
|Time period||Bronze Age China|
|Child systems||Clerical script
|Note: This page may contain IPA phonetic symbols.|
Lesser Seal Script, or Small Seal Script (Chinese: 小篆; pinyin: xiǎo zhuàn), or Hsiao-chuan, is an archaic form of Chinese calligraphy. It was standardized by Li Si, prime minister under the First Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi, and promulgated for use during the first imperial dynasty of China, the Qin Dynasty
Before the Qin conquest of the last remaining six of the Seven Warring States of China, local styles of characters evolved independently of one another for centuries producing what are called the scripts of the Six States (六國文字). Under one unified government however, the diversity was not deemed desirable for two main reasons: first, it hindered timely communication, trade, taxation, and transportation, and second, independent scripts might represent dissenting political ideas, especially in areas where the suppressed Confucian tradition remained strong.
Hence coaches, roads, currency, laws, weights, measures and writing were to be unified systematically. Characters which were different from those found in Qin were discarded, and xiaozhuan characters as defined by Li Si became the standard for all regions within the empire. The unification came in about 220 BC, and was introduced by Li Si and two ministers. The small cursive form clerical script came after the small script.
Li Si's compilation is known only through Chinese commentaries through the centuries. It is purported to contain 3,300 characters. Several hundred characters from fragmentary commentaries have been collected during the Qing period, and recent archeological excavations in Anhui, China, have uncovered several hundred more on bamboo strips to show the order of the characters; unfortunately, the script employed is not the small seal script as the discovery dates from Han times.
See also