Loading Spinner

Chinese Seals

Chinese seals, much like current-day signatures, were used to produce important unique and distinct marks in ancient Chinese times to prove the authenticity and identity of a document’s issuer. These marks were usually produced using red-colored ink, and by stamping a seal that was either carved out of wood, ivory, bamboo, jade, or metal.

There are three main types of marks that could be made by these seals. The first is produced where the characters themselves are carved into the material so that, when the seal is pressed to a surface, the characters will remain un-inked. The seal characters are therefore visible in the negative spaces; this is called “bai-wen." The opposite, where the positive space forms the characters, is called “zhu-wen." The third type of seal, where both techniques are employed, is called “zhubaiwen xiangjianyin."

Chinese seals were not only valued for the marks they made. Great value was also placed in the quality of the carving. To the Chinese literati, carving a seal was viewed as its own art form, equal to painting or drawing.


Quick Facts

  • Historically, the most important seals, particularly those of the emperor, were made of jade. The Heirloom Seal of the Realm, a seal created by the First Emperor, was the most significant in that it represented the passing of the Mandate of Heaven to subsequent rulers
  • The characters within these Chinese seals are typically carved in a highly stylized manner called “nine-fold script” that is illegible to an untrained individual
  • By the Qing Dynasty, there were about 25 Imperial seals. These seals were likely collected in attempt to diminish the importance of the Heirloom Seal, as it had been lost by early Ming Dynasty

Recommended Items at Auction

See all items

Clive Christian Private Collection For Men Sealed
Oct 30, 10:00 AM MST
Clive Christian Private Collection For Men Sealed
by EJ'S Auction & Appraisal
Est: $0- $0
$8010 Bids
2005 U.S. Mint Uncirculated Coin Set in Sealed Box
Oct 29, 7:00 PM EDT
2005 U.S. Mint Uncirculated Coin Set in Sealed Box
by Big Dog Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$94 Bids
2009 U.S. Mint Uncirculated Coin Set in Sealed Box
Oct 29, 7:00 PM EDT
2009 U.S. Mint Uncirculated Coin Set in Sealed Box
by Big Dog Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$103 Bids
EARLY INUIT SEAL OIL LAMP MADE OF STONE. 6" WIDE
Nov 13, 10:00 AM EST
EARLY INUIT SEAL OIL LAMP MADE OF STONE. 6" WIDE
by Marion Antique Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1752 Bids
Mma Brass Old Treaty Seal Silver Gilt Skippet Box
Oct 28, 10:00 AM EDT
Mma Brass Old Treaty Seal Silver Gilt Skippet Box
by Berner's Auction Gallery
Est: $10- $1,000
$62 Bids
Jade Imperial Dragon Seal with Hallmark
Oct 28, 12:00 PM EDT
Jade Imperial Dragon Seal with Hallmark
by Akiba Antiques
Est: $200- $2,000
$2202 Bids
bp parity badge
CARVED WHITE JADE BEAST SEAL ADN INSCRIBED SPINACH JADE
Oct 31, 6:00 AM PDT
CARVED WHITE JADE BEAST SEAL ADN INSCRIBED SPINACH JADE
by East West Auctions
Est: $5,000- $8,000
$8001 Bid
PALE YELLOW SOAPSTONE 'LUDUAN' SEAL DATED TO 1953
Nov 05, 10:00 AM GMT
PALE YELLOW SOAPSTONE 'LUDUAN' SEAL DATED TO 1953
by Lyon & Turnbull
Est: £400- £600
£2001 Bid
Tianhuang Stone Seal
Nov 02, 9:00 AM EDT
Tianhuang Stone Seal
by Yakon Auctions
Est: $4,000- $7,500
$5001 Bid
Shoushan Tianhuang Stone Seal Ornaments
Nov 02, 9:00 AM EDT
Shoushan Tianhuang Stone Seal Ornaments
by Yakon Auctions
Est: $4,500- $7,500
$5001 Bid
Carved Tianhuang Stone Seal
Nov 06, 12:00 PM PDT
Carved Tianhuang Stone Seal
by Jumbo Auction House
Est: $1,500- $3,500
$2001 Bid
1956 SEALED MINT SET
Oct 28, 11:00 AM EDT
1956 SEALED MINT SET
by Silver City Auctions
Est: $300- $400
$101 Bid
Mint Sealed Box of 2009 P & D (LP2) Lincoln Formative Years Cents
Oct 29, 7:00 PM EDT
Mint Sealed Box of 2009 P & D (LP2) Lincoln Formative Years Cents
by Big Dog Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$11 Bid
A CHINESE ARCHAISTIC STYLE JADE BEAST SEAL
Oct 31, 8:00 PM EDT
A CHINESE ARCHAISTIC STYLE JADE BEAST SEAL
by NC Auctioneer Inc.
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$3001 Bid
2005 U.S. Mint Uncirculated Coin Set in Sealed Box
Oct 30, 7:00 PM EDT
2005 U.S. Mint Uncirculated Coin Set in Sealed Box
by Big Dog Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$11 Bid
2008 U.S. Mint Uncirculated Coin Set in Sealed Box
Oct 30, 7:00 PM EDT
2008 U.S. Mint Uncirculated Coin Set in Sealed Box
by Big Dog Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$11 Bid
2007 U.S. Mint Uncirculated Coin Set in Sealed Box
Oct 29, 7:00 PM EDT
2007 U.S. Mint Uncirculated Coin Set in Sealed Box
by Big Dog Auctions
Est: $0- $0
$11 Bid
Two Chinese Shoushan Stone Seals
Oct 30, 9:30 AM EDT
Two Chinese Shoushan Stone Seals
by Luban Antique
Est: $100- $300
$500 Bids
SEAL DEPICTING A FOX APPROX. ( 1781 - 1860 )
Oct 30, 10:00 AM CEST
SEAL DEPICTING A FOX APPROX. ( 1781 - 1860 )
by Hardt Auctions GmbH
Est: €1,800- €2,000
€1,6000 Bids
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE CARVED 'MYTHICAL BEAST' STAMP SEAL
Oct 30, 3:00 PM PDT
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE CARVED 'MYTHICAL BEAST' STAMP SEAL
by Mega International Auction Inc.
Est: $800- $1,000
$7000 Bids
CHINESE SOAPSTONE BEAST SEAL
Oct 28, 9:00 AM EDT
CHINESE SOAPSTONE BEAST SEAL
by Ander's Auction
Est: $1,400- $1,800
$7000 Bids
CHINESE SOAPSTONE BEAST SEAL
Oct 28, 9:00 AM EDT
CHINESE SOAPSTONE BEAST SEAL
by Ander's Auction
Est: $1,600- $2,000
$8000 Bids
CHINESE SOAPSTONE BEAST SEAL
Oct 28, 9:00 AM EDT
CHINESE SOAPSTONE BEAST SEAL
by Ander's Auction
Est: $1,600- $2,000
$8000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Seals


Empire Auction House

Empire Auction House

Merces Gallery LLC

Merces Gallery LLC

Jumbo Auction House

Jumbo Auction House

Ander's Auction

Ander's Auction