The workshop was located in the Guwenhua Jie tourist street in Tianjin, surrounded by souvenir shops. I did not really believe from the very beginning that we should have our seals carved here, and when a young guy, looking more like a biker or rock musician, presented himself as the artist I suggested to leave. A second look at the artwork displayed in the shelves supported my initial doubts, tacky manga creatures obviously made for customers in their late teens seemed to be the main business.
While we talked a bit, I discovered the Hannya Shingyo, printed with beautifully carved seals hanging on the wall. And another version on the opposite wall. “The one was an assignment from the Shaolin Temple, carved in expensive stones”, the young seal maker explained, “the other one for a poor Buddhist temple, where I had to cut a large seal-stone into slices to save money”.
We started discussing the design and proper choice of characters for the seals I had in mind, and soon it was clear that we not only had discovered a sincere Buddhist, but also a true master of his art. After an hour or so of interesting conversation we reached agreement, and shortly after the seals where made. While carving, he explained to us that his waiting list for custom-made seals currently is a few months, but since he enjoys exchange with sincere people appreciating his art, and we came from so far, he makes an exception for us.
The real master is often hidden and easy to miss, I thought when leaving, though nowadays it might not always be a cloudy mountain hermitage where he lives.