Chinese seal and red seal paste
|Traditional Chinese||印 · 章 · 璽 · 鑑|
|Simplified Chinese||印 · 章 · 玺 · 鉴|
|Hanyu Pinyin||yìn · zhāng · xǐ · jiàn
|Vietnamese||ấn giám · đồ chương · ấn chương|
|Hangul||인감 or 도장 · 인장|
|Hanja||印鑑 · 圖章 · 印章|
|Kanji||印鑑 · 印章 · 判子|
- 1 Lead
- 2 Types, uses and nomenclature
- 3 Government seals
- 4 Design
- 5 Schools and artists
- 6 Influences on East Asian cultures
- 7 Cool knowledge
- 8 See also
- 9 Notes and references
In the Chinese cultural sphere, a seal (pinyin: yìn, colloquially known as a "chop"), refers to a carefully carved stamp or the imprint created by the stamp, which has been used in lieu of an emblem of identity and authority for over 3000 years.
HYBRID—As a hybrid form of traditional Chinese art, that integrates seal script calligraphy, carving techniques, the aesthetics of painting and the socio-cultural milieu of the time, Chinese seal carving is a miniaturist art which seeks a balance of beauty within a square inch.
4 PERFECTIONS—Along with painting, calligraphy and pottery seal carving became recognised as one of the "Four Perfections" (Chinese: 四絕; pinyin: sìjué) of the tradtional Chinese art, along with .The same can be said of seal engraving, which became one of the "four perfections," together with poetry, calligraphy and painting.
earliest histories seal script
- importance in an art work
Chinese seals are artistically engraved with Chinese characters (words) or sometimes pictures, typically made from stone—sometimes also from metals, wood, bamboo, plastic or ivory— and are most commonly used with red ink or cinnabar paste (pinyin: zhūshā), by pressing them into an oily red paste and then stamping them on documents or artworks to leave their mark.
The history of seal carving in China can be traced back to the Shang Dynasty (c. 1600 BC—1046 BC), when pictographic characters and simple decorative patterns were engraved onto animal bones, tortoise shells and bronze vessels for divination and tantric purposes. The oracle inscriptions discovered in the Anyang excavations in Henan are the earliest known Chinese seals.
- Some of those crudely made seals, though not matured in a high art form, are indicative of the simplicity of beauty found in early civilization of China.
- The Zhou classics Book of Rites kept the earliest written records on seals, and the first known stone seal was the Stone and Drum scripts of the Spring and Autumn period.
The Qin Dynasty (221 BC—206 BC) was a turning point of the development of Chinese seals. The First Emperor of China introduced the imperial seal, Heirloom Seal of the Realm, as a divine symbol of the emperorship. In addition, he implemented a standardised system to regulate the use of official seals, which was further enhanced in the Western Han period. Also, a special government body was established to oversee the display and possession of official seals.
- Materials: During the Era of Warring States (475 BC—221 BC), seals started to be widely utilised for signing official documents, which were ordinarily written on wood or bamboo slips.
- Symbol of power: A story is often told that in the period of the "Warring States" (JRlS, 403-221 B.C.) the famous politician Su Chin (&&)> wno had been favoured with the premiership of six allied states, wore six official seals on his girdle simultaneously.
- Materials: During the Han Dynasty, seals came to be used to create protective marks on letters and large items being sent to others. In those days when writing was done on bamboo or wood , and after they were fastened together with string, paste would be applied over the knot and an identification impression made with a seal. Because the area of the paste was limited and a seal had to be carried on one's person, it was small – just 1 or 2 centimeters wide, with a hole drilled through to allow it to be carried on a string or cord. When paper was invented, seals found a much wider range of uses, both seal and character size were expanded, and greater variations in font and structure emerged. Square seals took place of the round-shaped style, and, by the time of the Han Dynasty, seal as a form of art was officially recognised by the central government and eventually established its position in the Chinese culture.
- During the Tang Dynasty,
seal carving became recognised as one of the "Four Perfections" (Chinese: 四絕; pinyin: sìjué) of the tradtional Chinese art, along with painting, calligraphy and pottery.
- During the Song and Yuan dynasties the literati developed a fascination with seal carving, and the aesthetics of the composition and script used were raised to a higher plane, elevating seal cutting to the status of an art form.
- In the 14th century, the Yuan scholar Wang Mian developed the techniques, making seal carving art of the scholars that played a very important place in the art of calligraphy and painting down to the present time.
- Among all seals existing at present, those of the Shang Dynasty are very rare.
- "Those made before Chin (fc.) have total a few thousands and those belonging to the Han (jfc) Wei (Kfe, 220-264) and Tsin (#, 265-420) amount to about ten thousand.Therefore, we may conclude that seal making in the Chin and Han periods was quite prolific and seal makers of the subsequent ages always looked upon the Chin and Han seals as their model form and pattern for reproduction.
- Only very few official seals can be identified as those of the Sui and Tang epochs.
- As to those of the Sung and Yuan dynasties, aside from their official seals, many original seal designs can be found on the calligraphic works and paintings of
- Between the 4th and 7th centuries AD, seal art was widespread to Japan along with other forms of Chinese art.
China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea currently use a mixture of seals and hand signatures, and increasingly, electronic signatures.[dead link]Handwritten signatures had been used in classical China, but carved personal seals came to be considered higher status; they are still used for serious transactions in China, Japan and Korea.
Types, uses and nomenclature
- Name seals usually come in pairs: one carries the name of the artist and the other the name of their studio.
- HOW TO READ
- Rotating Character Seal (
迴文印NOT TYPE, A STYLE![徐永裕印]), characters are read in an anti-clockwise direction, rather than from the top-down, right-to-left. Sometimes used in writing (e.g. to sign a preface of a book).
From as early as the 2nd millennium BC, seals have been used to identify ownership, to authenticate documents and to establish political or religious authority in China. By the Ming Dynasty, seals were regarded aesthetic objects by the elite, and seal engraving, as a special form of calligraphy, evolved into an important aspect of the literati’s cultivated pursuits.
Private (personal) seals
As identification is the primary function, most seals are engraved with personal names of individuals and are therefore known as name seals.
- It is common for individuals to possess a name seal that bears the owner's personal name, which is often used for signing legal documents, or, less formally, as signature for private correspondence.
- (In comparison, however, government seals or seals of authorised organsations usually bear the name of the office, rather than the name of the official.)
There is as great a variety among such seals as there is among the individual artists themselves; the most common practice is to include the imprint of both family name and given name in full into one seal. Many choose courtesy or art names while others adopt fanciful pseudonyms.
- A name seal is used to denote/state the person's name.
- Imprints on a name seal include
- personal name ((姓名印 )
- courtesy name/style name (表字印 )
- art name(s)/alias (biehao別號印): states aliases of the user, including artistic names, painting names and pen names.
- stylised signature (huaya 花押印): a person's stylised signature. Often small, sometimes with images, the design can be varied in style.
- zongyin (總印): origin—General or Combined Seal [大英伯明皇龍正之章]: States the personal name and the place name where he/she is from.
- with honorary title or guanxian
- Name seals can be used on shujian
- 臣妾印 Subject Concubine Seal [臣小明] (male) [妾美櫻] (female): Used in imperial times by imperial consorts or officials.
Another type of name seal is studio seal. As the name suggests, a studio seal proclaims the studio of the artist. An artist chooses a studio name not only for identification, but to reflect his personal philosophy. Studio seals carry the name of the person's private studio 書齋, which most literati in ancient China had, although probably in lesser forms. These are more or less rectangular in shape.
- 齋館印 Studio or Study Seal [雅目齋]: States the name of the studio or body. This includes society and company seals.
- 收藏印 Storage Seal [松雨彗齋圖書印]: Used on books or paintings that are kept by the user. This includes appreciation seals used on paintings and books that the owner admires.
- Artists, scholars, collectors and intellectuals may possess a full set of name seals, leisure seals and studio seals, the latter two of which refer to seals for art works, created by the artist and which add a further artistic dimension to the painting or calligraphic scroll.
- Leisure seals
- A leisure seal (閒章) will most often contain a motto or auspicious saying,, is the equivalent of today's email signature, and can contain the person's personal philosophy or literary inclination. These can be any shape, ranging from ovals to dragon-shaped.
- 肖形印 Portrait Seal: Has images with no words to express the user's character.
- 書簡印 Simplified Word Seals [如佩信印]: Used in letters, instead of writing well wishes by hand, the seal takes its place.
- 吉語印 Lucky Sayings Seal [日就富貴]: Has lucky sayings and proverbs.
- 詞句印 Poetry Seal [問松消息]: Inscribed with a poem or proverb, used on paintings and suchlike. May be large or small, depending on length of inscription.
- 黃神越章 Huangshen Yuezhang Exceeding Seal of the Yellow God [黃神越章天帝神之印]: Used in ancient times on letters as a protective charm on letters to ward off wild beasts and demons of the recipient. Now used mainly as a well-wishing convention on letters to people who travel abroad as well as a protective charm for the letter to be delivered safety to the recipient.
- 封泥 Sealing Stamp: Used to seal letters or packages, often after the sealing tag/strip has been stuck on the flap.
Role in Chinese art
Seals are often used on Chinese artworks including calligraphy works and paintings. According to the characters inscribed upon them, seals applied to most often fall into the three types, and usually imprinted in such works in the order (from top to bottom) of name seal, leisure seal(s), then studio seal.
If a work has only one seal, it will surely be the name of the artist, i.e. the name seal. The other two types are the leisure seal and the studio seal.
Among appraisers, archivists and collectors, there is a consensus that a studio seal does not negatively affect its value as a piece of fine art.
A studio name stamped on an old calligraphic work indicates "this work has been in my collection" or "I authenticate this work as genuine".
Owners or collectors of paintings or books will often add their own studio seals to pieces they have collected. This practice is an act of appreciation towards the work. Some artworks have had not only seals but inscriptions of the owner on them; for example, the Qianlong emperor had as many as 20 different seals for use with inscriptions on paintings he collected. Provided that it is tastefully done (for example, not obscuring the body of the painting, appropriate inscription, fine calligraphy, etc.), this practice does not devalue the painting but could possibly enhance it by giving it further provenance, especially if it is a seal of a famous or celebrated individual who possessed the work at some point.
Nomenclature of Chinese seals varied greatly from the Qin Dynasty down to the Ming and Qing periods, employing such terms as "hsi" (玺) "pao" (宝) "yin"(印) "chang" (章) "chi" (记) and "guan- fang" (官方).
Prior to the Qin Dynasty, seals of all kinds were referred to as xi (玺) during the Warring States period. To highlight the absolute authority of the emperor, Qin Shihuang defferentiated the names and materials of the imperial seal and seals of government officials. xi the definition of "xi" became restricted to the severely truncated meaning imposed by cultural the emperor’s seal was called “Xi,” and made of jade, while official and private seals were call “Yin.”
This system vas further perfected in the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.-A.D. 23), when the seals were further classified into three categories: “Xi”, “Zhang” and “Yin.”
- “Xi” was made of jade or gold with a knob in the shape of a tiger;
- “Zhang” was made of gold or silver with a knob in the shape of a tortoise;
- and “Yin” was made of bronze with a simple loop o “handle” at the top.
The knobs were festooned with thread, rope, or ribbons of different colors, which differentiated their use based on the classes of officials they were to represent. For example, officials from the central government to the local government could be identified in grades according to the seals that they possessed. Official seals were issued or taken away when the appointment or removal of official titles were announced.
In terms of government authorities, ...
Emperors of China, royal families and feudal officials used large seals known as xǐ (璽), later renamed bǎo (寶, "treasure"), which corresponds to the Great Seals of Western countries. These were usually made of jade (although hard wood or precious metal could also be used), and were originally square in shape. They were changed to a rectangular form during the Song Dynasty, but reverted to square during the Qing Dynasty.
In the People's Republic of China, the seal of the Central People's Government from 1949 to 1954 was a square, bronze seal with side lengths of 9 centimetres. The inscription reads "Seal of the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China". Notably, the seal uses the relatively modern Song typeface rather than the more ancient seal scripts, and the seal is called a yìn (印), not a xǐ (玺), in a nod to modernity. Government seals in the People's Republic of China today are usually circular in shape, and have a five-pointed star in the centre of the circle. The name of the governmental institution is arranged around the star in a semicircle.
In Taiwan, the government has continued to use traditional square seals of up to about 13 centimetres each side, known by a variety of names depending on the user's hierarchy. Part of the inaugural ceremony for the President of the Republic of China includes bestowing on him the Seal of the Republic of China and the Seal of Honor.
- Imperial Seal
- Created by the first Emperor of China, Qin Shihuang, the Imperial Seal was the most important government seal of China, seen as a legitimising device embodying or symbolising the Mandate of Heaven. The Heirloom Seal was passed down through several dynasties, but was lost by the beginning of the Ming Dynasty. This partly explains the Qing Emperors' obsession with creating numerous imperial seals - for the Emperors' official use alone the Forbidden City in Beijing has a collection of 25 seals - in order to reduce the significance of the Heirloom Seal.
These seals typically bore the titles of the offices, rather than the names of the owners. Different seals could be used for different purposes: for example, Emperor Qianlong had a number of informal appreciation seals [乾隆御覽之寶] used on select paintings in his collection.
The most popular style of script for government seals in the imperial ages of China (from Song to Qing) is the Nine-fold Script (九叠文, jiǔdiéwén), a highly stylised script which is unreadable to the untrained.
- Vassal seals
- During the imperial period, ackowledge their subordinate position in a tributary relationship with the imperial court. Annam, Siam and Burma rulers of these kingdoms sent ambassadors bearing tribute to the Chinese capital with credentials demonstrating that they looked up to the Chinese courtt for guidance, authority or protection. In turn grant the tributary king a seal of rulership as the basis for his authority over his country. The Chinese seal, which for higher offices can be as large as a foot square, was the essential badge of power. The Emperor...?
- Official seals
Chinese chops are still used for a wide variety of purposes in Taiwan and Mainland China. They are used as identification when signing for a parcel or registered mail, or signing checks at the bank (legal papers and bank transactions). Since seals are hard to forge and should only be accessible to the owner, they are accepted as proof of ID. Signatures are sometimes required along with the chop stamp, the two together being an almost failsafe method of identification.
Chops are also used for conducting business. Companies must have at least one chop for signing contracts and other legal documents. Large companies may have chops for each department. For example, the financial department may have its own chop for bank transactions, and the human resources department may have a chop for signing employee contracts.
Seals are still used for official purposes in a number of contexts. When collecting parcels or registered post, the name seal serves as an identification, akin to a signature. In banks, traditionally the method of identification was also by a seal. Seals remain the customary form of identification on cheques in Mainland China and Taiwan but not in Hong Kong where signatures are required. Today, personal identification is often by a hand signature accompanied by a seal imprint. Seals can serve as identification with signatures because they are difficult to forge (when compared to forging a signature) and only the owner has access to his own seal.
Since chops have such an important legal significance, they are carefully managed. Businesses must have a system for controlling the use of chops, and will often require written information each time a chop is used. Managers must keep track of the location of chops and make a report each time a company chop is used.
As a novelty souvenir, seal carvers also ply tourist business at Chinatowns and tourist destinations in China. They often carve on-the-spot or translations of foreign names on inexpensive soapstone, sometimes featuring Roman characters. Though such seals can be functional, they are typically nothing more than curios and may be inappropriate for serious use and could actually devalue or deface serious works of art.
Chinese seal carving is not an average skill. It is indispensable to deal with the methodologies of [seal script] calligraphy (shufa), ideas (yifa), and carving (daofa).
|— Wang Zhuan, adapted from Seal Collections of Baojin Studio.|Chinese seal carving is a miniaturist art; the carver attempts to strike a balance of beauty, all within a square inch. Who practices the ancient art of Chinese seal carving, etching characters onto small blocks of jade. ivory, or other soft precious stones. Chinese seals and seal carving are inextricably linked to the arts of Chinese calligraphy and painting and hence occupy a central place in Chinese culture. No calligraphy or painting is deemed complete until an impression with an inked seal stone is pressed onto It. It requires artistic talent to carve a set of Chinese characters in their mirror image on the surface of a piece of raw material, and the demands on the seal-maker in terms of time and skill great, placing the“craft”of sealcutting firmly in the realm of fine art.
- The range of fonts and lines seems to know no bounds,
- Apart from being a convenient method for identification, each seal, however small, represents one's deeper self-identity and status.
Seal knobs are the carved decorations on the top of Chinese-style seals. Although in modern times tigers and dragons are most common (at least for sale to tourists) in ancient times there was a wide variety in seal knobs. Seal Knobs
- Seal scripts
The seals of the Warring States period 475-221 B.C.) were mostly engraved in the script of da zhuan (a calligraphic style with complicated strokes, originating in the Zhou Dynasty (1100-221 B.C.); the later script created in the Qin Dynasty (221-207 B.C.) was called xiao zhuan. Thus da buan (big seal script) or xiao haan (small seal script) were later regarded as seal scripts.
- the reform in the Chinese character system influenced the then aesthetics,
- replacing the round-shaped style with square ones.
- Carving techniques
Seals are further differentiated by the characters they possess. Seals may either have the characters etched into the surface, creating white characters on a red field, or they may be raised from the surface, resulting in red characters. The former type is known as an intaglio, or red-character seal (朱文印/Zhu Wen Yin/Chu Wen Yin), while the latter is known as a relief, or white-character seal(白文印/Bai Wen Yin/Pai Wen Yin). When selecting seals for a work, it is important that the seals are not of the same type. Having two intaglio or two relief seals in close proximity is considered a poor choice, as the values of variety and balance are just as important in the application of the seals as they are in the creation of the artwork.
- Zhuwen seal (Chinese: 朱文; literally: "red characters") imprint the Chinese characters in red ink, sometimes referred to as yang seals.
- Baiwen seal (Chinese: 白文; literally: "white characters") imprint the background in red, leaving white characters, sometimes referred to as yin seals.
- Zhubaiwen Xiangjianyin (S:朱白文相間印, lit. "red-white characters combined seal") seals use zhuwen and baiwen together
|Carving techniques of the Chinese seal art|
Schools and artists
Initially — Prior to the
Ming dynasty, seals were just an adjunct to calligraphy and painting, most seals served a purely practical function. apart from the calligraphic importance of Ch'in and Han dynasty seals.
Song-Yuan dynasties — In the period of the Song and Yuan dynasties (c. mid-10th to mid-14th century), stamping seals on the works of painting and calligraphy came into vogue among painters, calligraphers, collectors and appraisers. In addition to personal names and studio names, collection appraisal signs and set phrases were also carved on seals.
By mid-Ming — Many intellectuals became devoted to doing their own creative carving of seals on stones, and a group of celebrated literati seal carvers had grown up by the mid Ming period of 16th century. Their distinguished styles in carving, composition and calligraphy exerted great influences on later seal carvers and various seal carving schools formed after them. 
Qing — Interest in bronze and stone inscriptions among Qing Dynasty scholars encouraged the development of seal carving and many different schools arose. Catalogues of seal carvings also enriched the genre as an art form.
Late-Qing development (Development of the 20th century) — In the late Qing period (19th century), blazing new trails and pursuing individuality was the main trend of seal carvings. The carvers assimilated the techniques of previous masters and brought forth their individual styles in practice. Wu Changshuo's bold and vigorous style is a very good example. This trend has a deep influence on modern seal carving.
Literati seal carving
Prior to the Ming dynasty, seals were mostly made by pseudonymous handicrafters; the Ming artist Wen Peng was the first to acknowledge seal as an art work to be appreciated in its own right, by nothing the authorship through the name inscription on seal sides.
Wen was famous for ivory seal making, and his work and style of creation were at the forefront of the art of seal carving. As originator of the literati seal carving, Wen was credited for bringing seal handicraft into the realm of art. He inherited the traditions of the antique Han-style calligraphy in his works, and opened up new avenues of seal calligraphy. Also, he broadened the scope of Chinese seals by introducing verses into seal imprints, which is a significant contribution to the development of leisure seals.
- Hui School 徽派
- also Wan School, based in Anhui
- He Zhen: earliest Hui School, He School
- Xi School: Cheng Sui, an outstanding carver of the early Qing followed by Ba Weizu and Hu Tang, established a new school called Xi. They developed into a new style from He style, so they could also be regarded as a branch of Hui School.
- Deng School, Deng Shiru: New Wan School, Deng School
- Zhe School 浙派
- also School of West Lake (Xiling School), based in Zhejiang
- Ding Jing: Zhe School Xiling School
Contemporary seal carvers
Li Lanqing (b. 1932) is a prolific seal carver and calligrapher, who previously served as Vice Premier of the State Council of China from 1993 to 2003. In his retirement, Li has been instrumental in bringing about a dramatic transformation in this traditional art to revive the traditional practices of seal carving and calligraphy to their previous popularity enjoyed in the Qing dynasty.
Bai Qianshen (白謙慎, b. 1955) is an accomplished calligrapher and seal carver, as well as a scholar of the historical and literary aspects of the arts, with research interests in Chinese calligraphy, painting, and seal carving, particularly from the late Ming to the present.
Influences on East Asian cultures
Other cultural contexts
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Chinese seal art.|
Notes and references
- Reserve information
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- Chinese Seals at China Online Museum
- The Art of Chinese Chop (Seal Carving)
- History of Chinese Seal Carvings
- A chop is necessary for approving decisions relating to the operations and management of a company in China."Company Chops in China". LehmanBrown.
Introduction to Chinese Seal Carving
- Anderson, Ross J. (2010). "15.2 Handwritten Signatures". Security Engineering: A Guide to Building Dependable Distributed Systems (2nd ed.). John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 1118008367.
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- Karlsson, Kim; et al. (2009). Eccentric visions: the worlds of Luo Ping. Museum Rietberg, Metropolitan Museum of Art of New York. Museum Reitberg Zürich.
- Karma of the Brush, 1995: An Exhibition of Contemporary Chinese and Japanese Calligraphy. "Seals and Chinese Calligraphy: A Partnership". Chinese-Japanese Calligraphy Exhibition Committee, Canadian Craft Museum. 1995. ISBN 0969943601.
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- Yiu, Josh (2009). Writing modern Chinese art: historiographic explorations. Seattle Art Museum. ISBN 0932216625.
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- Hsieh, Melody (1991). "Sinorama". No. 3. translated by Andrew Morton. Kwang Hwa.
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|month=ignored (help) Reproduced from "T'ien Hsia Monthly". X (1). 1940. Unknown parameter
- The boundary showing maximum size (1.0 by 1.5 centimetres (0.39 in × 0.59 in)) and extreme design freedom in font and decoration.
- Hobson-Jobson (1903), "chop", A glossary of colloquial Anglo-Indian words; The dictionary of trade products (1890), "chapa": "chop", a word adapted from the Hindi ("chapa") and Malay ("cap") words for stamps.
- Dillon 1998, p. 273.
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- West & East 1956, p. 78.
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- Chinese Culture 1960, p. 141.
- Sun 2004, pp. 11-14.
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- Taylor 1995, p. 296.
- Anderson 2010, 15:2.
- Taiwan Review 2008, p. 63.
- Karma of the Brush 1995.
- Wang, Lulu. "What are Types of Chinese Seals and their Application in Chinese Brush Painting and Calligraphy?". Asian Brushpainter. Cite error: Invalid
<ref>tag; name "Wang1" defined multiple times with different content (see the help page).
- Valuation 1988, p. 12.
- Hsieh 1991 in Sinorama.
- Hsu 1981, p. 448.
- Joshua Hough, ed. (31 March 2012). "Introduction to Chinese Seals". Arts & Virtue Chinese Calligraphy Website. History of Chinese Seal Carving. External link in
- Seal Knobs, Seal Society.
- Wang, Lulu. "What is the History and Usage of Chinese Seals?". Asian Brushpainter.
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- "Ian Boyden Studios : Collaborators".
- Kenkyusha's New Japanese-English Dictionary. ISBN 4-7674-2015-6.
- Mitsuko, 光子, a popular female given name. The uniform line widths and extremely archaic forms of the ideographs for "fire/light/bright" (Mitsu, 光) and "child" (Ko, 子), read right-to-left.
- "Getting Accommodation, Part Three: Your Hanko". Daijob.
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- Na Jeong-ju (2009-07-29). "'Ingam' to Disappear in 5 Years". Korea Times. Retrieved 2009-10-06.
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