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I noticed that in various works of Japanese art, the artists sign their work with a seal whose contents range from fairly regular kanji to very abstract variations of kanji. I have also seen it used in calligraphy, as shown in the example below.

I heard that this is called "seal script", but no one has been able to point me to any more information on it beyond Wikipedia. Is there a name for this form of writing and better resources for learning about it?

Photograph of a piece of Japanese artwork with calligraphy in an unknown script.

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up vote 4 down vote accepted

The kanji script that you see in the first (rightmost) line of your picture, as well as in seal is called [篆]{てん}書体.

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I don't know what that means, but the romanization for the word I provided is "tenshotai". I just checked and saw that in English, it is called "seal script" or "small seal script". –  sawa Mar 5 '12 at 15:18
    
zhuànshū is the romanization of the Chinese word spelled the same, tenshotai is the romanization of the Japanese (on-)reading. –  sawa Mar 5 '12 at 15:26
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篆書体 read as てんしょたい is perfectly accepted as a Japanese word. –  sawa Mar 5 '12 at 15:34
    
I guess in most of the cases, they have a counterpart within the characters used today. They are just different font styles. –  sawa Mar 5 '12 at 16:30
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Yes, they actually are kanji, just in a different "font." You can see a lot of the difference as homeomorphism, if that helps... to change the metaphor a bit, they preserve the essence of the "graph" (edges and nodes) but alter its visual expression. For example, the 木 radical at the top there looks more like *. (Also note that often older forms are used, thus 艸 instead of 艹.) –  Matt Mar 5 '12 at 23:24
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