Chop Seals Galley

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Chinese Chops - The Most Authentic Statement

The chops or seals are just the rubber stamps of today. The Chinese chops are quite ancient like the civilization. Chop art meaning ‘seal carving’ is one of the four traditional art forms of the Chinese. The Chinese chops are typically made of stones; sometimes they are also carved on metals, wood, ivory, bamboo, and plastic. They have been using seals since ancient times. The unearthing of some of the ancient Chinese chops reveal how expert they were in carving stones and making some of the most beautiful seals.

The Chinese emperors and their families often used seals in early times. The Chinese seal carving can be vaguely compared to the Chinese writings, because most seals have Chinese characters inscribed on them. Even in present times, chops play an important role in the Chinese society. If a document is marked or stamped with a red seal, it can hardly be revoked in China. Meant for official purposes, people use chops for their varied personal uses as well.

Normally, a seal is carved on a stone with the help of a knife, with calligraphic works on them. The original seals of the Chinese were square in shape. The characters carved on a chop could be Yang (male) or Ying (female).The seal created by the first emperor of China, ‘Qin Sichuan,’ is regarded as the most prominent because when stamped on something, it meant the ‘Mandate of Heaven.’ This seal, however, got lost during the beginning of the Ming dynasty.

The functions of seals have changed with different dynasties, and sometimes they were created for sheer art form. The seals handed down from the different dynasties of China bore their respective titles of offices. Today, the official seal of the Republic of China is inscribed with “Seal of the Central People's Government of the People's Republic of China.” It is 13-cm square-shaped seal made of bronze. The ancient art of Chinese chops has survived a considerable period of time.

Hanko: Your Japanese Signature Seal

In Japan, rather than sign their names to documents and letters, they use seals, or stamps. These are engraved symbols, carved in wood, jade, ivory, or most commonly, stone. Most people have several seals, or inkan, that they use for a variety of purposes. The most common one that they would use for day-to-day, low security purposes, are called hanko. Japanese hanko are almost always the carved symbol for an individual’s last name; they are used for signing personal letters or initialing changes in a document. You may find the hanko stamped on the back of an envelope or in a greeting card. In order to use your hanko for legal documents, it must be registered with the Japanese government.

Today, in stationary and gift stores, you may find prefabricated hanko representing common surnames, or kits to carve your own. These kits will include several pieces of stone or wood, a chisel, sandpaper, and a slim pen. You will also find prefabricated ink with which to use your homemade hanko.

Hanko are the most simple of all inkan, consisting often of just one hiragana, or symbol; they can be round, oval, or square, and range in size from .2 to .59 inches in diameter. Generally, but not always, round hanko are used by individuals, while square ones are used by companies or organizations. Women’s hanko are usually smaller than men’s. They are generally used with red ink, made either from silk strands or from crushed moxy punk, which is an Asian herb. While many inkan, used for more formal purposes, are kept in ornate boxes, hanko are generally kept in simple plastic boxes, as they are used for more commonplace purposes.