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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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HETIAN WHITE JADE CARVED DRAGON PATTERN SEAL
Nov 29, 11:00 AM EST
HETIAN WHITE JADE CARVED DRAGON PATTERN SEAL
by Empire Auction House
Est: $600- $800
$4003 Bids
A Chinese Carved Jade Stone Empty Chop
Dec 17, 9:30 AM EST
A Chinese Carved Jade Stone Empty Chop
by Luban Antique
Est: $50- $100
$202 Bids
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A FINE TIAN HUANG STONE SEAL
Nov 27, 11:00 AM EST
A FINE TIAN HUANG STONE SEAL
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $60- $90
$301 Bid
A SET OF EIGHT WHITE JADE SEALS WITH BOX
Jan 03, 9:00 AM EST
A SET OF EIGHT WHITE JADE SEALS WITH BOX
by Roswell Auctions
Est: $3,500- $4,500
$1,0001 Bid
A CHINESE QINGTIAN STONE SQUARELY SEAL.Z083.
Dec 03, 11:00 AM EST
A CHINESE QINGTIAN STONE SQUARELY SEAL.Z083.
by Metropolitan Auction of Art Inc.
Est: $2,000- $3,500
$4751 Bid
A SET OF THREE CARVE JADE DRAGON SEALS
Dec 04, 9:30 AM EST
A SET OF THREE CARVE JADE DRAGON SEALS
by Berkeley Auction Gallery
Est: $3,000- $4,000
$6001 Bid
A CHINESE INSCRIBED JADE SEAL
Dec 04, 9:30 AM EST
A CHINESE INSCRIBED JADE SEAL
by Berkeley Auction Gallery
Est: $3,000- $4,000
$6001 Bid
Japanese/Chinese Scholar's Items: Seals
Dec 07, 10:00 AM EST
Japanese/Chinese Scholar's Items: Seals
by Caza Sikes
Est: $100- $200
$501 Bid
FIVE CHINESE SEAL CHOPS
Nov 30, 11:30 AM EST
FIVE CHINESE SEAL CHOPS
by Latair Auctions
Est: $600- $900
$1001 Bid
CHINESE FOUR SEAL CHOPS
Nov 30, 11:30 AM EST
CHINESE FOUR SEAL CHOPS
by Latair Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$1001 Bid
CHINESE FIVE SHOUSHAN STONE SEAL CHOP
Nov 30, 11:30 AM EST
CHINESE FIVE SHOUSHAN STONE SEAL CHOP
by Latair Auctions
Est: $600- $900
$1001 Bid
Antique Chinese Ivory Stamp Seal with Dragon and Chinese Characters, Ming Seal
Dec 10, 10:00 AM EST
Antique Chinese Ivory Stamp Seal with Dragon and Chinese Characters, Ming Seal
by Washingtonian Auction
Est: $300- $500
$501 Bid
CHINE - Début XXe siècle
Nov 27, 11:00 AM CET
CHINE - Début XXe siècle
by OXIO
Est: €200- €300
€2001 Bid
A VERY FINE CHINESE SEAL SIGNED WITH CALLIGRAPHY
Dec 10, 12:00 PM EST
A VERY FINE CHINESE SEAL SIGNED WITH CALLIGRAPHY
by RB Fine Arts
Est: $300- $500
$1000 Bids
Chinese Yuan Bronze Seals (4pc)
Dec 03, 11:00 AM EST
Chinese Yuan Bronze Seals (4pc)
by J. James Auctioneers and Appraisers
Est: $400- $800
$1000 Bids
SET OF FOUR SHOUSHAN SOAPSTONE CARVED LONG RECTANGULAR STAMP SEALS
Dec 03, 3:00 PM PST
SET OF FOUR SHOUSHAN SOAPSTONE CARVED LONG RECTANGULAR STAMP SEALS
by Mega International Auction
Est: $1,200- $1,600
$8000 Bids
SHOUSHAN FURONG SOAPSTONE CARVED 'DRAGONS' STAMP SEAL
Dec 03, 3:00 PM PST
SHOUSHAN FURONG SOAPSTONE CARVED 'DRAGONS' STAMP SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $1,200- $1,800
$7500 Bids
HUANGYANG BOXWOOD CARVED 'SUN' STAMP SEAL
Dec 03, 3:00 PM PST
HUANGYANG BOXWOOD CARVED 'SUN' STAMP SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $1,200- $1,600
$9000 Bids
Three Chinese Carved Soapstone Chops/Stamps.
Dec 17, 10:30 AM PST
Three Chinese Carved Soapstone Chops/Stamps.
by Turner Auctions + Appraisals
Est: $100- $200
$500 Bids
Chinese Bronze Foolion Seal
Nov 28, 10:00 AM EST
Chinese Bronze Foolion Seal
by Stallion Hill Gallery
Est: $600- $800
$3000 Bids
Chinese Song Dynasty Bronze Figural Stamp
Dec 03, 11:00 AM EST
Chinese Song Dynasty Bronze Figural Stamp
by J. James Auctioneers and Appraisers
Est: $300- $600
$1000 Bids
PairAntique Chinese Rare Agate Seals - Albert Gallatin Estate
Nov 28, 10:00 AM EST
PairAntique Chinese Rare Agate Seals - Albert Gallatin Estate
by Stallion Hill Gallery
Est: $800- $1,200
$4000 Bids
ANTIQUE CHINESE SHOUSHAN SEAL QING DYNASTY SIGNED 32.48 GRAMS
Dec 10, 12:00 PM EST
ANTIQUE CHINESE SHOUSHAN SEAL QING DYNASTY SIGNED 32.48 GRAMS
by RB Fine Arts
Est: $300- $500
$1000 Bids
GILT BRONZE CAST 'MYTHICAL BEAST' STAMP SEAL
Dec 03, 3:00 PM PST
GILT BRONZE CAST 'MYTHICAL BEAST' STAMP SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$1,2000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Seals


Empire Auction House

Empire Auction House

Merces Gallery LLC

Merces Gallery LLC

Berkeley Auction Gallery

Berkeley Auction Gallery

Jumbo Auction House

Jumbo Auction House