國立歷史博物館創建於民國 44 年（西元 1955 年）12 月，自首批館藏入館至今，60 餘年來藏品已近 6 萬件，樣貌多元、古今兼備。長年來，積極舉辦各類型國際性展覽，以期達到雅俗共賞、老少咸宜的目的，兼之以弘揚歷史文化之教育性功能。適逢開館超越一甲子，本館很榮幸地舉辦由易玖愚先生私人珍藏之「石韻揭諦─印石巧雕展」，向民眾介紹各類印石，並宣揚印石文化與其工藝之美。
Many ancient civilizations have incorporated the use of “name seals” into their cultural history. Objects of varying shapes were utilized to represent a person for purposes of entering into agreements, confirming one’s identity, and other uses. This custom of using an object to symbolize one’s identity is a milestone in the historical development of ancient civilizations. Each civilization created distinct forms of name seals. The Mesopotamians utilized a roller-shaped object, early Indians developed a button-shaped seal, and ancient Egyptians used multiple-shaped name seals. Each civilization created its own rich cultural history and development around the use of name seals.
The Chinese name seal, or “chop,” has a history thousands of years old and still counting. Even in current times, the chop is still in use as a legal form of identification in China. For the Chinese, the chop has evolved and transformed into a valued cultural artifact with great artistic significance. The chop seamlessly combines many elements such as the material selected, the carvings, the scripts and verses, and the subject matter; together they all convey an integrated beauty by merging natural texture with Chinese art and culture.
The materials used in making chops have evolved with each ancient dynasty. Porcelain, precious metals, jade, stone and bone were all used; however, the chops made of stone, believed to symbolize heaven and earth were the most highly praised in each dynasty. Tianhuang stones from the Shoushan Village in Fujian province, Chicken-Blood stones from Changhua town, Lin'an City in Zhejiang province, Qingtian stones from Qingtian County in Zhejiang Province, and the Balin Stone from Inner Mongolia, collectively known as “The Four Stones in China,” were the most collected and favored by the Chinese literati.
In this Stone Seal Exhibition, many pieces made of Shoushan stones are on display. To date, more than 150 types of Shoushan stone have been discovered, including Tianhuang stones, Furong stones, Shanbo stones, Lichi (Lychee) stones, and so on. Their texture is gentle and exquisite allowing for translucent carvings. Their bright-colored exterior is striking with vivid colors. The craftsmanship in Shoushan stone carvings evolved into an original art form during the Tang and the Song Dynasties, and it began to receive public attention in the late Mid-Ming Dynasty (around 1582). The Qing emperors especially preferred the great variety of Tianhuang stones. Tianhuang’s regal yellow hue perfectly represented the Qing emperors’ royal color. The stone’s gentle appearance became associated with good moral character, so Tianhuang was referred to as “The King of Stones.” On the other hand, Furong stones, described as charming and elegant, fresh and delightful were known as “The Queen of Stones.” The light and clean Lichi (Lychee) stones were called “The Concubine of Stones.” These three stones were the most favored by the public and collectors alike. Numerous other famous art collections were also created from these stones. In addition to the royal chop, these stones can be made into stone carvings for people to enjoy and to play with, or they can also serve as fashionable gifts or displayed in private collections, therefore expanding the possible uses of these stones.
Since the literati mostly collected the stones as an amusement, the carvings often depict many allusions; they may reveal prayers for blessings, congratulations, self-declarations, or other tales. Besides the use of fine-quality stones, the sculptor’s craftsmanship and skill can add unique styles and artistic significance to the chop culture. The stone carvings can be classified as freestanding sculptures, relief sculptures, and translucent sculptures. Most of the time, the knob of a seal is made of freestanding sculpture to enable it to be observed from all angles; hence, the sculptor is required to take great care with all sides and perspectives for a piece of work. Translucent sculptures are also referred to as openwork sculptures. Unlike freestanding sculptures in the West, the Chinese translucent sculptures were made by attaching the carved stones to objects such as vases, or eyeglass frames. The translucent sculptures can be divided into various types depending on the depth of the carvings. “Surface carving” is a technique utilizing a light cut that reveals the most intricate imagery. Ink and press the surface carved stone on a piece of paper, and the result will be a Chinese ink wash painting. It is a special process that combines carving and painting revered for its great cultural and artistic value. There are more than 40 pieces of work on display representing this unique surface art technique. The stone rubbings are on display as well, allowing visitors to admire the beauty of the stone chops, the carvings, and the paintings.
The National Museum of History was founded in the 44th Year of the R.O.C. (1955). The museum’s collection has now grown to over 50,000 pieces within the past 60 years. The collection is extensive tracing from modern times far into ancient times. Since its inception the museum has actively held several international exhibitions with the goal of bringing high culture and art into popular culture. We hope the exhibits inspire both the young and old to come discover and wonder at the history and culture within these walls. For the museum’s 60th Anniversary, we are very proud to host the “Experience the Stone Arts—Shoushan Stone Carving Exhibition” showcasing the private collection of Mr. Yi Jiu-Yu to introduce the variety of seal stones to the public. Hopefully, the public will enjoy this rare opportunity to observe the beauty of the stone chop, learn more of its origins, and experience the various aesthetics of the stone chop culture and craftsmanship.