中華印石的文化大山，爬爬走走，歇歇停停，走了快 50 年，在松下問了無數的童子們……，即盡我玖愚半世紀之力，也只能說：「只在此山中，雲深不知處」。
As I can recall, my father began forcing me to spend most of my childhood days on practicing Chinese calligraphy when I entered kindergarten. Unlike the happy and worry-free childhood days for most kids, I had to stay in the study room and spend hours after hours writing hundreds of Chinese characters every single day. As a young kid, refusing to do what I was told was the only passive-aggressive way that I could protest against my father. Still having to spend hours sitting at my father’s desk yet not doing what I was supposed to do, my attention was soon caught by the Chinese seals displayed in front of me. They were cubic or oval in shape, and they were all carved with names, titles, and verses. I was so attracted to these artworks as I began to discover the fun and beauty in them. Why would anyone need so many seals? I became obsessed with these artworks during my high school and college years. Except for the years that I spent in the United States obtaining my master’s degree, I always held them in my hands and played with them at every opportunity I had, praising and admiring the elegance of the stones and exquisite carving skills performed on them.
In the East Asian culture, signature seals (name seals) have always played an important role in people’s lives; they are so common that people see them and use them on a daily basis. The use of these seals in Chinese culture began to reach its peak in the Warring States Period (5th century BC - 221 BC). They were used as a symbol of power for royalty or for the governing class to show their authoritarian regimes and orthodox heritage. Chinese name seals also served as a form of identification, and this tradition still continues today.
In the early 1980s, I came into contact with Shoushan stone and entered this attractive field of Chinese culture. From a traditional perspective, the Shoushan stones from Fujian province, the Balin stones from Mongolia, the Qingtian stones from Zhejiang Province, and the Changhua Chicken-Blood stones are together known as “the Four National Stones” of China. Each of these stones has its own unique color and elegance. Tianhuang stones, being the finest type of Shoushan stones ever discovered, are worshipped as “the King of Stones,” whereas the Furong stones are praised as “the Queen of Stones.” In ancient Chinese mythology, Nüwa the Goddess of Creation used approximately 36,500 blocks of five-color stones to patch up the holes in the sky as heaven collapsed. This story along with my past memories have made me even more obsessed with the undeniable beauty of stones. Quoting Wang Cheng, a poet during the Southern Song Dynasty, “We’re all sailing in the same boat along a windy river under the moonlit mountain.” The question is, is it really just you and I who are on the journey to passing on this cultural heritage and its beauty? For centuries, sculptors and artists have devoted time and efforts to achieve the greatness of what we see today. One may ask, how do we define who and what the object and subject—the collectors, the viewers, the and artworks—are in terms of its artistic perspective? No matter what your answer is, we are all riding on the same boat down the passage of passing on this magnificent cultural heritage.
The thin-surface carving technique incorporates more than just the scenery on the sculpture. The depiction is full of imagery from poetry, and it surpasses even the intelligent art of calligraphy. It is like a melodic tune created by the stone—or the sound from Heaven—that reflects my heart, giving me the feeling of suddenly being inspired and enlightened. It is more than just an interpretation of the true understanding of life. In fact, it takes more to feel it from the heart than to reply to the spirit of the stone. When I look upon the stone, touch it with my hands, feel the texture of it, and appreciate its delicate craftwork, I can then wholeheartedly embrace the true essence of the stone.“To experience” is just the beginning of enlightenment as well as the start of understanding who one really is. It is a long journey to understand the way of life, to become a sage, and to achieve enlightenment. All we see in front of us is a bright path with a promising ending. We know that we will eventually find out the true meaning of life at the end of the journey, yet we also know that self-cultivation requires endless efforts and practices so that one will be able to reach the state of enlightenment. We need to go beyond merely understanding of the theories from books; instead, feeling the nature and divineness of the stones by heart and appreciating the breathtaking skills performed on them shall allow us to perceive what true masters really see in the stones.
I have spent nearly 50 years exploring the expansive ocean of knowledge regarding Chinese seal stones. Along my journey, I have had my ups and downs as I have turned to countless masters and experts for insights and guidance. Quoting Jia Dao, a poet from the Tang Dynasty, “The Master is somewhere in the mountain, but I don’t know his whereabouts in the misty fog.” After putting in half a century of efforts and time, one thing I know for sure is that the answer I have been seeking is somewhere out there down this path. All in all, the story of my journey is to be continued...