Seal Name “Salmon of Knowledge”


Salmon of Knowledge seal yin

Tianhuang Salmon seal

salmon seal impression



肖形印 Xiaoxing Yin Picture Seal


Allegedly Shoushan Tian Huang stone


Yang cut. A leaping salmon.


General Description

Carved in relief on front with a salmon on back two hazelnuts.


It references the Celtic myth of the "Salmon of Knowledge" The impression is of the salmon his tail touches the tail of the salmon image carved on one side and on the other side are two of the nine hazelnuts of wisdom that fell into the Well of Wisdom (aka Tobar Segais) from the nine hazel trees that surrounded the well, that the salmon ate and that caused his transformation. Maybe it is all just about that omega 3 stuff.

Gin ye dinna ken it, the story in brief: Salmon eats hazelnuts of wisdom thus it contains all knowledge, the orphan Fionn McCumhaill (Finn MacCool) and brought up in the wilderness to hide from his dead father's enemies in the traditional manner, who would kill him if found, becomes acolyte of the poet Finnegas; the whom is the wisest man in Ireland who lived by a rock pool (Well of Wisdom aka Tobar Segais)on River Boyne. Finnegas had been there, patiently looking for the Salmon of Knowledge for seven years (in some versions because it was predestined to be caught by someone with a similar Finnie sounding name). Finnegas eventually catches said salmon asks Finn to cook it carefully without letting it blister but not to eat any of it, fish skin blisters, Finn pushes it down, burns finger on fat, puts finger in mouth becomes super enlightened. Finnegas stoically accepts a fait accompli and tells the know-all brat to eat the rest of salmon then piss off and become a mythical hero.

Notes on Stone

In July 2012 I bought on Ebay two yellow pebbles. They were listed as Shoushan stone, from a merchant from Shizuishan city, on the edge of the Gobi desert in Huinong district, Ningxia, China which is over 1,200 miles from Shoushan. This seal is the end of one of them.

I bid on the stones because they looked like Tian Huang stone although I was fairly certain they could not actually be such as the rare Shoushan Tian Huang  田黄 “field yellow” stones which are composed mainly of nacrite and dickite can be valued much higher than gold by weight.

Nonetheless they are yellow and field stones so at least Tian Huang in a generic sense (unlike many artefacts being sold as made of such which are coloured stone dust in resin).  There is a Javan softstone of a similar colour to Tian Huang (and sold under that name or as Batu Koneng) from several quarries in West Java, Indonesia but this is said to be becoming rare in its own right such is the high Chinese demand for it. As larger pieces of quarried stone they often have sharp edges and coarser 'skin' the colour is also seems much more homogenous than in true Shoushan stones which are mined from Shoushan (寿山), Fuzhou (福州), in the Fujian (福建) province of China(on the coast half way between Hong Kong and Shanghai.
On Taoboa stones from Laos and Vietnam as well as yellow varieties of Balin and Changhua are also being referred to as Tian Huang, which is after all in essence a description. As far as I can make out while struggling with auto translation some stones even seem to be attributed to multiple provenances but perhaps they are just saying it is like stones from the more traditionally regarded sources.

Back to my stones. Uncarved stones are of course harder to fake with synthetics than finished seals. What arrived were the two pebbles with a gift of two smaller Shoushan stones of more modest colours. They passed the hot needle/flame test for resin, and the abrasion test for a false surface coating. Although they seemed obviously of real mineral I did the first two tests anyway as sometimes smaller pieces of real stone are joined together or bad cracks are filled with wax or resin. They had the rounded form of the yellow field stone resulting from its natural travel from original seam to field, time developed 'skin' and the resulting internal flawing and the colour graduations of tian huang which is slowly stained over geological periods by metallic oxides in the soil. They have a few harder areas perhaps containing quartzite but otherwise their hardness is in the Mohs 2-3. The specific gravity is just over 2.9 which is denser than most nacrite type Shoushan but top of range for pyrophylite type making them nearly as heavy in the hand as jade, which rules out many common substitute stones such as brucite.

Dimensions in millimetres


36 mm


57 mm


30 mm