The Xiling Seal Society is a scenic area in West Lake established in memory of the group of seal cutting masters of Hangzhou. The society itself was founded in 1904 by four masters, who established the group’s principle to be ‘preserving the works of the past masters, researching the technique in seal cutting, and doing something about calligraphy and painting’. With this principle, the group has gone on to become the world’s oldest and most influential institution that is focused on the study of ancient seal inscriptions.
It currently has over 300 permanent members that include seal masters from all over the world. It has also published several books on antique seal making, calligraphy, and painting. With over 1,900 years behind it, it is safe to say that the society is pretty successful in its aim to preserve the art of seal making.
The scenic area dedicated to the group is located on the western side of the Solitary Island in West Lake, Hangzhou. It is right opposite the Zhongshan Park. The place plays a key role in continuously promoting seal inscriptions and in furthering the legacy of Chinese calligraphy. Due to its role in Hangzhou’s culture, the place is considered as a state-protected intangible cultural heritage and it is also widely supported by Chinese and foreign epigraphists.
Things to do
The Xiling Seal Society scenic area is perched on a rising slope. The area is filled with beautiful gardens, rock formations, and sculptures scattered all around. Due to the wide expanse, the area is a great place for exploring. Many people also go there to relax and just take in the ancient culture of China. The atmosphere is indeed very calming as it mixes the beauty of nature and the timelessness of art. The result is a serene, picturesque garden that will liven up the heart. The place is therefore very popular among art lovers as well as history lovers with a keen interest in Chinese calligraphy.
While sightseeing, you will find many notable parts in the area, such as the Cypress Hall, the Bamboo Chamber, the Revered Sages Pavilion, the Happiness Tower, and the Pagoda of Avatamsaka Sutra, among many others.
You will also see a stone house called Han Sanlao, where you will see the Stele of Sanlao which lists the Taboo names and dates of death; it still has 217 remaining characters that are completely legible. The Stele itself was found in 1921 in Yuyao County.
Every year, in Spring and Autumn, members of the Xiling Seal Society make their way to West Lake to attend seminars or simply to gather together. Works of old and new members are sometimes put on display. The members also go there particularly to learn new knowledge that may help them improve their skill.
Towards the end of a visit, guests are encouraged to check out a small workshop located within the Xiling Seal Society area; this small workshop is where contemporary artists usually sell their work, so you might find something you like.