Sandalwood Literary Seal Depicting Dragons




Size: 2.5 inches square

Qing Dynasty (清朝)

Chinese Workmanship


This compact powerfully rendered sandalwood seal depicts a double dragon headed finial. The inscription may be read as Lan xing yuan fu or “The fragrance of orchids reaches far.” This is a line from the Shuijing zhu (Commentary on the Water Classic) compiled by Li Daoyuan sometime during the early fifth century.  


In its original context, these four characters are part of the description of the idyllic scenery around a small pavilion on Mount Duliang in present Hunan province.  The text describes the fragrant flowers around the pavilion and notes that local people used the word duliang for flower lan, which is where the name of the mountain comes from.  Before the Song period, the word lan, commonly translated as “orchid”, in reality designated a flower belonging to the genus Eupatorium.


The seal has an original gold silk box lined with blue silk. There are numerous Imperial seals rendered from sandalwood which appear in Imperial Seals of the Ming & Qing period in the Collection of the Forbidden City by Guo Fuxiang. In our opinion, the subject matter, workmanship and exotic material suggest a Qing dynasty date for this important seal.

Together with gold silk box with blue silk lining.


From a Distinguished American Collection.


Reference number: 4166


Price Available Upon Request


To inquire about this work of art, contact us at 415.299.1600 or email at