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Chinese seals or chops have been used since the Tang emperor Taizong ascended the throne in 626 AD and first added his seal to a painting proclaiming imperial ownership. 

Later during the Song Dynasty artists began to add their own name seals to their paintings. These beautiful and lively scarlet bits could add both color and subtle meaning thereby increasing the complexity of the paintings of the literati-painters.

Many seals are carved from jade or stone, Shoushan being the most desirable type of stone. Even materials such as wood or animal horn have been used for seals. The top of the seals can be carved into beautiful objects, animals or scenes.

Traditionally artists carved their own seals but today there are specialists who make seals for customers around the globe. No two seals are identical so they are as unique as signatures. Collectors may prize seals for their form or they may find the inscriptions to be of more interest. Either way collections can run to hundreds with some exceeding a thousand seals.

There is some maintenance though for seal stones. They are breakable and best handled with care. Seals should not be kept in either strong sunlight or strong artificial light. The oil transfer from handling them is beneficial so a collection should be enjoyed frequently. Well cared for seals can last for centuries and are often passed down from generation to generation making them a truly unique collectable.

antique jade foo dog
happy dot, clever idea - gray marbled stone
spring comes to the green mountain
ink dancing - lotus leaf carved atop soapstone
misty waters - Balin stone
quiet mood - bamboo
rain nurtures ink - Balin stone
wind and rain astonish - dragon carved in Shoushan
windy around mansion - scene carved around stone
horn seal used in business


Seal imprints express a name, set the mood or tell a story. Many examples can be seen on the Seal Imprints page.

All items are from the collection of the artist.

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2002-2007 Margana Erwin Maurer