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​Antiquity-evoking seals enjoy vogue in Saigon

Wednesday, March 21, 2018, 23:00 GMT+7
​Antiquity-evoking seals enjoy vogue in Saigon
An emerald seal and its impression bearing ancient Chinese characters. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Le Minh Tuan, the 26-year-old owner of a shop in Binh Thanh District, Ho Chi Minh City, has sold seals since he first noted a ‘booming demand’ for these ancient-looking objects.

Originally, his business specialized in tools utilized in calligraphy like quill pens, ink, ink-stones and paper, but later he began offering various types of seals and engraved gems.

“Customers collecting things reminiscent of the past often want to leave their self on what they buy. Seals and engraved gems precisely fit the bill,” he said.

Intaglios, serving as accessories or signs of good fortune, can fetch VND150,000-200,000 ($7-9) apiece at his shop.

Intaglios with elaborate patterns. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Intaglios with elaborate patterns. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Intaglios carved with images of sacred beasts. Photo: Tuoi Tre
Intaglios carved with images of sacred beasts. Photo: Tuoi Tre

It is difficult to sell a seal due to its expensiveness, but the profit is large, he said.

One with a sleek surface exhibiting its natural pattern costs no less than VND300,000 ($13).

Another shop of the same type in District 2 receives 20 orders for seals and intaglios every month, said 25-year-old Truong Ung Minh, the owner.

He added the products on sale were imported from China, which processes gems from Vietnam and sends it back to the country.

“My target customers are businesspeople, those who run their own companies and like to impress others with their wealth,” he said.

“They often order tailor-made seals, using them to make impressions on documents within their companies.”  

Ly Van Canh, a customer of the shop, paid VND1.2 million ($53) for a group of four seals fashioned in the shape of the mythological creatures of the azure dragon, vermillion bird, white tiger and black turtle.

The beasts represent four directions and are deemed sacred, according to local folklore.

The seals with the four holy beasts: the azure dragon, vermillion bird, white tiger and black turtle. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The seals with the four holy beasts: the azure dragon, vermillion bird, white tiger and black turtle. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Canh said the seals would be used for making imprints on letters to close friends and business partners, and positioned on his desk to bring success in his job.

A shop in District 10 mainly sells exquisite gilded seals made from gemstone or pure copper, offered at around VND2 million ($88) each.

The items are favored by business people, architects and artists.

This place also provides customers with the service of personalizing gems with their names and etching seals with Vietnamese calligraphy.

Most of the shops give complimentary seal ink as a promotional practice.

A small-sized gilded lion seal of copper. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A small-sized gilded lion seal of copper. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A seal in the shape of a holy beast. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A seal in the shape of a holy beast. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A seal made from precious stone. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A seal made from precious stone. Photo: Tuoi Tre

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Thai Xuan / Tuoi Tre News

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