Bird-worm seal script () is a type of ancient
seal script 200px, left, Chinese characters for the words 'seal script' in regular script (left) and seal script (right). Seal script () is an ancient Chinese script styles, style of writing Chinese characters that was common throughout the latter half of ...
originating in
China China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), is a country in East Asia. It is the List of countries and dependencies by population, world's most populous country, with a population of around 1.4 billion. Covering approximately 9.6& ...


Chinese character Chinese characters, also called ''Hanzi'' (), are logograms developed for the writing of Chinese. They have been adapted to write other East-Asian languages, and remain a key component of the Japanese writing system The modern Jap ...
(''Niǎo'') means "bird" and the character (') means "insect", but can also mean any creature that looks like a "worm", including invertebrate worms and reptiles such as snakes and lizards (and even the Chinese dragon). The character (''Zhuàn'') means "seal (script)". Other names for this kind of seal script: * Niao-Chong Script (). The Chinese character (') means "script" here. * Niao-Chong Characters (). The Chinese character (') here means "script". There are two subcategories (sub-styles): * Bird seal script (; ** In this style, some parts of characters have a bird-like head and tail added. The bird style sign is a combination of two parts: a complete seal script character and one (sometimes two) bird shape(s). * Worm seal script (; ) ** In this style, some or all the strokes are winding, thus producing a worm-like character, but there is no additional bird shape.

Introduction and history

Seal script evolved from
oracle bone script Oracle bone script () was an ancestor of modern Chinese characters engraved on oracle bonesanimal bones or turtle plastrons used in pyromancy, pyromantic divinationin the late 2nd millennium BC, and is the earliest known form of Chinese writin ...
, and diverged into different forms in the Spring and Autumn period, after the power of the
Zhou dynasty The Zhou dynasty ( ) was a Chinese dynasty that followed the Shang dynasty The Shang dynasty (), also historically known as the Yin dynasty (), was a Chinese dynasty that ruled in the middle and lower Yellow River valley in the second ...
waned and China began to divide into different states. This kind of seal script first appeared in the middle era of the Spring and Autumn period. It then became popular during the late Spring and Autumn period, and was most popular during the
Warring States period The Warring States period () was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period and concluded with the Qin wars of conquest ...
. It was often seen in kingdoms such as the Wu (roughly today's Jiangsu Province), Yue (roughly today's Zhejiang Province), Chu (roughly today's
Hunan Hunan () is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provincia'', which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roma ...

Hubei Hubei (; Postal romanization, alternately Hupeh) is a landlocked provinces of China, province of the China, People's Republic of China, and is part of the Central China region. The name of the province means "north of the lake", referring to i ...
provinces), Cai, Xu, and the
Song A song is a musical composition File:Chord chart.svg, 250px, Jazz and rock genre musicians may memorize the melodies for a new song, which means that they only need to provide a chord chart to guide improvising musicians. Musical composi ...
. Each state in China during the Warring States Period had its own variety of script. These kinds of seal script declined after the
Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
, most likely due to the unification of writing scripts by Qin Shi Huang (unified into the small seal script), after his unification of China, although they were used during the Han Dynasty.


The bird seal script is often seen on Chinese bronzes, bronze and iron antiques of the Yue Kingdom (roughly today's Zhejiang Province). The script was used on bronze and iron weapons, like swords, to indicate ownership or date of completion. The characters engraved on the famous Sword of Goujian provide a fine example. A few examples of the bird seal script can be seen in or on Chinese bronzes, containers and Chinese jade, jades of that period. The bird seal script was also used occasionally in the Han Dynasty Seal (East Asia), seals (mainly the jade seals), as well as a few eaves tiles and bricks. The worm seal script is more common in, and probably originated from the Wu Kingdom (now roughly Jiangsu Province) or Chu Kingdom (now roughly Hunan Province and Hubei Province). Examples can be seen on antique bronze weapons, containers, jades, and seals (mainly the bronze seals of Han Dynasty), and constructional or decorative parts like tiles, etc. The characters on the famous Spear of Fuchai are a good example of this category of seal script.

See also

* Bronze inscriptions * Seal script ** Large Seal Script ** Small Seal Script  * Seal (East Asia)


* ''Shuowen Jiezi'', by Xu Shen. (It mentioned the bird-worn seal script was one of the eight writing scripts in Qin Dynasty ("秦书八体"), so it was still used in Qin Dynasty.) * 《鸟虫书通考》 (''General Study of Bird-Worm Seal Script''), by CAO Jinyan (); . * 《鸟虫篆大鉴》 (''The Great Collection of Bird-Worm Seal Script''), by Xu Gupu (); ; Shanghai Bookstore Press. {{list of writing systems Chinese script style Chinese scripts Logographic writing systems Chinese characters Seals (insignia) Chu (state) Wu (state)