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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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CHINESE SCHOLLER STONES ON WOODEN STANDS + BOXED HAND CARVED SEAL SET
May 23, 9:00 AM AEST
CHINESE SCHOLLER STONES ON WOODEN STANDS + BOXED HAND CARVED SEAL SET
by Albion Antique Auction Centre
Est: AUD10- AUD40
AUD253 Bids
Three Chinese hardstone seals,
Jun 04, 10:00 AM BST
Three Chinese hardstone seals,
by Roseberys
Est: £150- £250
£1202 Bids
A CHINESE CARVED ZITAN DRAGON SEAL
May 30, 9:00 AM EDT
A CHINESE CARVED ZITAN DRAGON SEAL
by Lauren Gallery
Est: $500- $15,000
$2001 Bid
A FINE CHINESE CARVED SHOUSHAN STONE DRAGONS SEAL
May 30, 9:00 AM EDT
A FINE CHINESE CARVED SHOUSHAN STONE DRAGONS SEAL
by Lauren Gallery
Est: $500- $15,000
$2001 Bid
Chinese cream stone seal with Qilong finial (H:5cm)
May 23, 1:00 PM AEST
Chinese cream stone seal with Qilong finial (H:5cm)
by Lawsons
Est: AUD60- AUD80
AUD151 Bid
A CARVED AMBER SEAL, A WEIGHT WITH PEACH AND A BUDDHA CARVING
Jun 10, 9:30 AM CEST
A CARVED AMBER SEAL, A WEIGHT WITH PEACH AND A BUDDHA CARVING
by Nagel Auction
Est: €800- €1,200
€4001 Bid
Early Chinese Jade Seal
May 29, 10:00 AM EDT
Early Chinese Jade Seal
by Bruneau & Co. Auctioneers
Est: $200- $600
$1001 Bid
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A CHINESE CERAMIC SEAL (?) WITH 6 YOUNG DRAGONS AND A PEARL
Jun 01, 11:00 AM CEST
A CHINESE CERAMIC SEAL (?) WITH 6 YOUNG DRAGONS AND A PEARL
by Galerie Moenius
Est: €200- €400
€2000 Bids
Antique Chinese Carved Dragon Seal Stamp
May 22, 8:00 PM EDT
Antique Chinese Carved Dragon Seal Stamp
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $80- $125
$600 Bids
Ancient Chinese Handcrafted Elephant Bronze Seal
May 22, 8:00 PM EDT
Ancient Chinese Handcrafted Elephant Bronze Seal
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $120- $170
$750 Bids
Feng Shui Chinese Bronze Dragon Double Seal
May 22, 8:00 PM EDT
Feng Shui Chinese Bronze Dragon Double Seal
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $150- $250
$1000 Bids
Chinese Hand Carved Soap Stone with Dragon Figure Head
May 22, 8:00 PM EDT
Chinese Hand Carved Soap Stone with Dragon Figure Head
by Weatherham Estate Treasures
Est: $110- $170
$600 Bids
A JADE SEAL
May 21, 10:00 AM SGT
A JADE SEAL
by China Arts Auction
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$6000 Bids
A SET OF TIANHUANG SEAL AND BLUE PRINTING BOX
May 21, 10:00 AM SGT
A SET OF TIANHUANG SEAL AND BLUE PRINTING BOX
by China Arts Auction
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$1,2000 Bids
Gem Stone Ruby Seal
May 21, 10:00 AM SGT
Gem Stone Ruby Seal
by China Arts Auction
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$1,5000 Bids
Gem Stone Seal
May 21, 10:00 AM SGT
Gem Stone Seal
by China Arts Auction
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$8000 Bids
Gem Stone Seal
May 21, 10:00 AM SGT
Gem Stone Seal
by China Arts Auction
Est: $1,000- $2,000
$8000 Bids
Antique Jadeite Jade Chinese Seal Paste Box, Handcarved Green Lavender c1900
Jun 02, 10:00 AM PDT
Antique Jadeite Jade Chinese Seal Paste Box, Handcarved Green Lavender c1900
by Global Auctions Company
Est: $1,200- $1,500
$1,0000 Bids
HOTAN JADE SEAL
Jun 01, 3:00 PM PDT
HOTAN JADE SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$6000 Bids
QING DYNASTY TIANHUANG LION BUTTON SEAL
Jun 01, 3:00 PM PDT
QING DYNASTY TIANHUANG LION BUTTON SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $3,000- $4,000
$2,2000 Bids
WU CHANGSHUO'S SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE SEAL WITH DRAGON AND BEAD PATTERN CARVED ON IT.
Jun 01, 3:00 PM PDT
WU CHANGSHUO'S SHOUSHAN TIANHUANG STONE SEAL WITH DRAGON AND BEAD PATTERN CARVED ON IT.
by Mega International Auction
Est: $3,000- $4,000
$2,3000 Bids
SHOUSHAN FIELD YELLOW STONE ANISEED HAND-CARVED BASALT BUTTON SEAL
Jun 01, 3:00 PM PDT
SHOUSHAN FIELD YELLOW STONE ANISEED HAND-CARVED BASALT BUTTON SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $2,500- $3,500
$1,6000 Bids
QING DYNASTY SANDALWOOD CROSS-DRAGON BUTTON SEAL
Jun 01, 3:00 PM PDT
QING DYNASTY SANDALWOOD CROSS-DRAGON BUTTON SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $16,000- $19,000
$13,0000 Bids
QING DYNASTY TOPAZ POETRY SEAL
Jun 01, 3:00 PM PDT
QING DYNASTY TOPAZ POETRY SEAL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $2,500- $3,500
$1,7000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Seals


Merces Gallery LLC

Merces Gallery LLC

Walnut Tree Auction House, Inc

Walnut Tree Auction House, Inc

Berkeley Auction Gallery

Berkeley Auction Gallery