A Descriptive Catalogue of the Antiquities 2: 195-196 (1861)

Chinese Seals
William Robert Wilde, M.D.

* See also Chambers' Journal, No, 414, New Series, for December 6, 1851, p. 364. See also "Notices of Chinese Seals found in Ireland," by Edmund Getty, M.R.I.A., p. 14. Dublin: 1850. Seal No. 4 is also No. 4 in Mr. Getty's Plate I.

Chinese Seals.—Cubical portions of white porcelain, about 5/8ths of an inch upon each side of the square, surmounted by the figure of an ape, and embossed upon the under surface with characters which are proved to be a very ancient form of Chinese writing, have been found in so many localities in Ireland, and in such numbers, as to warrant their being assigned a place in any collection of Irish antiquities, although the mode or the period in which they were brought to this country have not been explained by antiquaries. More than eighty years have elapsed since the first of these porcelain seals was found in this country, and so early as 1793, an engraving of one was published in the "Anthologia Hibernica," vol. i. p. 284. Since then, one hundred, at least, must have been discovered, and the impressions of sixty-three have been published. They have been found both in bogs and uplands, in the beds of rivers, under the roots of large trees, beside burial-grounds, and in the neighbourhood of modern human habitations; in fact, in all localities where they might have been dropped accidentally; but no instance is recorded of one being discovered under circumstances which could lead to the belief that they were in any way connected with the history of the country, or with the habits, either social or commercial, of its people. Still, the fact of so many having been found in such different situations is remarkable. Mr. J. Huband Smith first drew public attention to these seals in 1839. See his Paper, published in the Proceedings, vol. i. p. 381. Since then, Mr. E. Getty, of Belfast, published a memoir upon the subject, illustrated with engravings, and impressions of sixty-three of them. The mottoes upon these Chinese seals found in Ireland have been all read by competent scholars,* and many of them are highly poetical, such as "Pure is the breeze on the stream," " Heaven and water are of the same colour," "The arrow returns to him who trusts to himself," "A friend, like the Mei flower," &c. In Rail-case D, numbered from 1 to 5, will he found five of these Chinese seals, from the last two of which the accompanying illustrations, the natural size, have been drawn. The inscription on No. 4 has been variously read by different translators. Mr. Gutzlaff s translation is "To have the same expansive heart as heaven and earth." No. 5 is a unique specimen, being oval in shape, and ornamented by the figure of an animal resembling a guinea-pig. It was found at Rathkeale, county of Limerick, and was—Presented by the Rev. Dr. Todd, President. The inscription has not yet been read. Besides these seals, a collection of twenty-two impressions of other Chinese seals found in Ireland may be seen in this case. It is said that no porcelain seals of a similar shape and size can now be procured in China.

No. 1 was found near Kilmainham, county of Dublin, and—Presented by Mr. Thomas Young. No. 2 was—Presented by Miss Murphy. No. 3 was turned up in the year 1832 in a ploughed field near Borrisokane, county of Tipperary. This, and No. 4, formerly in possession of R. Fannin, Esq., were procured with the collection of Dean Dawson. For No. 5 see the foregoing.