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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

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A pair Chinese carved soapstone desk seals
Mar 08, 10:00 AM GMT
A pair Chinese carved soapstone desk seals
by Martel Maides
Est: £60- £80
£401 Bid
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Chinese Jade Carved Dragon Seal
Mar 23, 11:00 AM PDT
Chinese Jade Carved Dragon Seal
by Wealthier Art & Auction
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
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Large Chinese Russet Jade Seal
Mar 22, 11:00 AM PDT
Large Chinese Russet Jade Seal
by Wealthier Art & Auction
Est: $200- $400
$701 Bid
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Chinese Carved Bone Seal of Fire Dragon Figurine
Mar 13, 2:00 PM EDT
Chinese Carved Bone Seal of Fire Dragon Figurine
by Lion and Unicorn
Est: $200- $800
$201 Bid
A Chinese Carved Soapstone Seal, a Lion Dog Finial
Mar 17, 11:00 AM AEDT
A Chinese Carved Soapstone Seal, a Lion Dog Finial
by Theodore Bruce Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: AUD40- AUD60
AUD201 Bid
GILT BRONZE SEAL OF HOPE FOR A SON TO BECOME A DRAGON
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
GILT BRONZE SEAL OF HOPE FOR A SON TO BECOME A DRAGON
by Mega International Auction
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$6000 Bids
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE HAND-CARVED BUTTON SEAL WITH AUSPICIOUS ANIMAL PATTERNS
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE HAND-CARVED BUTTON SEAL WITH AUSPICIOUS ANIMAL PATTERNS
by Mega International Auction
Est: $2,500- $3,500
$1,7000 Bids
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE CARVING WITH NINE DRAGONS PLAYING WITH BEAD SEAL
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE CARVING WITH NINE DRAGONS PLAYING WITH BEAD SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $6,000- $7,000
$5,0000 Bids
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE HAND-CARVED 'VISITING FRIENDS' LANDSCAPE PATTERN JUE CUP SEAL ORNAMENT
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE HAND-CARVED 'VISITING FRIENDS' LANDSCAPE PATTERN JUE CUP SEAL ORNAMENT
by Mega International Auction
Est: $3,000- $4,000
$2,0000 Bids
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE HAND-CARVED DRAGON PLAYING WITH BEAD BUTTON SEAL
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE HAND-CARVED DRAGON PLAYING WITH BEAD BUTTON SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$1,2000 Bids
CHI TIAN JU SHI TIAN HUANG YIN BAO JIN THIN YI GAO SHI WEN SEAL
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
CHI TIAN JU SHI TIAN HUANG YIN BAO JIN THIN YI GAO SHI WEN SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $2,500- $3,500
$1,5000 Bids
QING DYNASTY SHOUSHAN STONE SEAL
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
QING DYNASTY SHOUSHAN STONE SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $3,500- $4,500
$2,5000 Bids
XU SANGENG' SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE HAND-CARVED LION BUTTON SQUARE SEAL
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
XU SANGENG' SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE HAND-CARVED LION BUTTON SQUARE SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $3,000- $4,000
$2,0000 Bids
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE HAND-CARVED KUILONG BUTTON SEAL
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE HAND-CARVED KUILONG BUTTON SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$1,3000 Bids
QING DYNASTY. BOXWOOD CARVED LIONS BUTTON SEAL
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
QING DYNASTY. BOXWOOD CARVED LIONS BUTTON SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $1,400- $1,900
$8000 Bids
Collection of Chinese and Japanese Seals.
Mar 09, 10:30 AM PST
Collection of Chinese and Japanese Seals.
by Turner Auctions + Appraisals
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
A chi dragon patterned tianhuang Shoushan soapstone seal,Qing Dynasty,China,Qing Dynasty,China
Mar 04, 8:00 AM EST
A chi dragon patterned tianhuang Shoushan soapstone seal,Qing Dynasty,China,Qing Dynasty,China
by Hotspot Auctions
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$2000 Bids
A Chinese jade seal with beast-form finial, Ming dynasty
Mar 15, 9:00 AM EDT
A Chinese jade seal with beast-form finial, Ming dynasty
by Oakridge Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $200
$1000 Bids
TIBETAN SILVER WAX SEAL SHANKA MOUNTED CORAL & TURQUOISE STONES
Mar 10, 10:00 AM PST
TIBETAN SILVER WAX SEAL SHANKA MOUNTED CORAL & TURQUOISE STONES
by Taylor & Harris
Est: $300- $400
$2500 Bids
Antique Chinese Carved Dragon Seal Stamp
Mar 13, 9:00 PM EDT
Antique Chinese Carved Dragon Seal Stamp
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $80- $125
$600 Bids
Chinese Paintbrush, and Bronze Seal.
Mar 09, 10:30 AM PST
Chinese Paintbrush, and Bronze Seal.
by Turner Auctions + Appraisals
Est: $60- $80
$300 Bids
A Chinese hard stone seal surmounted by a hare
Mar 08, 10:00 AM GMT
A Chinese hard stone seal surmounted by a hare
by Martel Maides
Est: £80- £120
£700 Bids
SHOUSHAN STONE CARVED LANDSCAPES, CHARACTERS, STORIES, POEMS, STUDY SEAL
Mar 23, 3:00 PM PDT
SHOUSHAN STONE CARVED LANDSCAPES, CHARACTERS, STORIES, POEMS, STUDY SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $1,200- $1,700
$7000 Bids
QING DYNASTY TIANHUANG ANIMAL BUTTON SEAL
Mar 23, 3:00 PM PDT
QING DYNASTY TIANHUANG ANIMAL BUTTON SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $3,500- $4,500
$2,8000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Seals


Merces Gallery LLC

Merces Gallery LLC

Walnut Tree Auction House, Inc

Walnut Tree Auction House, Inc

Mega International Auction

Mega International Auction

Yu Jen Taipei

Yu Jen Taipei