The Seal Stamp

Among my treasures from Asia is one I’ve ignored for many years—a carved stone seal stamp. I retrieved it from the spot in my living room where it served as a decorative piece, bought a stamp pad and ink, and tried it. It works.

The seal it creates is my stylized initials, TG3 (for Thomas L. Glenn III), as I used to write them back in my Vietnam days. The stamp represents a long-standing Oriental tradition of a nobleman or government official stamping documents with his seal rather than signing them. I guess I’ll use it in my letters and maybe Christmas cards.

The stamp is little over three inches high and an inch wide carved from tan stone (alabaster? marble?). Its upper half is in the shape of a coiled dragon rising out of symbolic ocean waves. Its bottom half is smooth. The underside is square, taken up with my initials.

I have another seal stamp whose bottom is uncarved. It’s larger, five inches high, and the figure carved at the top of it is an exaggerated temple dog that resembles an angry lion. Like my ceramic temple dog I described a few days ago in this blog, this dog is also holding a ball under its right foot, but it looks less like it wants to play, more like it’s preparing to attack.

I have no memory of where I obtained these stamps. They look Chinese, so I might have gotten them in China or maybe Hong Kong. The meticulous carving in both is artistry in miniature. The curled fur and tiny teeth are precisely shaped and look authentic even under a magnifying glass. The artists who created them were masters.

As I look around my living room, sun room, and piano room, I am awed by the collection of art from all over the world that my travelling days allowed me to collect. And I know that over time, the value will increase. My children and their children will have real treasures.

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