|In China, persons sign their
name not just by writing it, but also with an engraved seal, called a "chop".
I quote from the website "Traditional Chinese Culture in Taiwan",
[see also, e.g.: Seal-Engraving (Chop)]:|
||"A sentence frequently heard in the everyday life of a Chinese is 'Please sign your name and put your
chop on it.' You need your name chop to withdraw money from the bank, to pick up a registered
letter from the post office, to legalize a contract, and to acknowledge receipt of official documents. In
China, from ancient times to the present, from official government business to private affairs, no matter
how important or trivial, your chop affixes your credit and your promise. After signing your name, your
chop is still required for a document to be legally binding. Name chops are also the constant
companions of Chinese calligraphers and painters. Artists follow the custom of stamping their works
with their name chops to 'sign' them and as proof of authenticity.
Despite its small size, the chop plays an extremely important role in
the life of a Chinese."
|I have long been
using the Japanese cat kanji in this website (top right). During my recent trip to
China (March, 2002), I went to one of the touristy shops in
Guangzhou and had a chop made of this Chinese character.
This cost the equivalent of US$5, and the shop person told me it would
be ready in a couple hours. I could not understand
how they could make the chop so quickly, but when I got it (right), I noticed that the character was
simply scratched into the stone, which obviously can be done in less than a minute.
|I realized that these
cheap chops made for tourists are very different from what is described in the quote (above).
In these chops, the part of the inking surface that is cut away is the background, not the foreground.
I went looking for a higher quality chop maker, and, surprisingly, found one right in the
hotel where I was staying (The White Swan). I asked for the character to be
done "in the old style" (top/below left;
Click here to see "chop" that makes this mark).
[A Chinese coworker has described what I got as: "symbol for cat, in an odd style".]|
a schoolchild in the 10th grade, I took "ancient history" course [the teacher's name was:
"William Clinton Burriss Young"]. One assignment in this course was to "make something" related to ancient history.
I had no idea how or even why to make anything -- having learned only how to
write course papers and answer questions on course tests.|
|I unsuccessfully tried to make a Babylonian
but I lacked the artistic skill to carve a miniature intaglio
figure of a person or animal (or anything else...), and the materials I used, trying to do the
equivalent of the bronze sculpture "lost wax process" with Ivory soap and thermoplastic, had no possibility of working.
I felt at the time that the assignment was nothing but a way for the teacher to
show me that even though I almost always received good grades on tests and papers,
I still could fail (one "D" student, e.g., whose father must have had
woodworking tools, made a model of a chariot, and got an "A" on the assignment).|
back, now, almost 40 years later, I see how,
if I could have tried to make a Chinese "chop" for that assignment, I might have learned things that would be
lastingly and generatively meaningful to me
-- i.e., things that might have suggested to me
further appealing things to explore. I would also likely have successfully fulfilled the requirements of the
course assignment, instead of learning that I could have pointless, helpless failure in my
"life" (perhaps more precisely:
"my" less than life).|
I conceived my "knotted letter symbol" (below left),
which I had made into a rubber stamp, and have
used ever since, somewhat as the Chinese use chops, as part of [or even instead of...] "my" written signature
(below). I also sometimes identify myself simply by drawing
a cat's face (below).|
name" is "mine" only in the functional sense of my biological parents having
affixed it as a label onto my physical body at my physical birth as a target
for them, and later, school teachers and other tor-mentors, to
direct orders at so they could jerk it (aka "me"...) around.|
|The "knotted letter symbol"
-- and, more recently, the cat kanji --, in contrast, are mine in the freely
self-identificatory sense that I recognize them as
things I have created and, in ongoing critical reflection, judge to be good.|
||"The way is everything. The end is nothing." (--Willa Cather)
||"For the spirit alone lives; all else dies." (--Jean de Coras)