Through the ages, the Chinese Seal has been a symbol of identity and authority for almost 3,000 years. Originating as early as the Shang Dynasty (1600 B.C.-1100 B.C.), it is a kind of stamp with Chinese characters or sometimes pictures, which is often used on documents, contracts, brush paintings, or similar items to prove the identity and authorship. In the world's society nowadays, the mixed usage of seals and hand signatures are currently becoming more popular than ever. In Japan and China, seals are still commonly-used and widely-accepted when doing business or other official procedures.
Typically, Chinese Seals are made of stone or wood. According to the carving styles of Chinese Seals, it can be divided into Zhuwen (red characters), Baiwen (white characters) and Zhu Bai Wen Xiang Jian Yin (red and white combined character seal).
Due to the different uses, Chinese Seals are divided into the imperial seals, the official seals and personal seals. The Imperial Seals are large square seals, normally used by Chinese emperors, imperial families and senior officials in ancient China. Also commonly known as "Xi", these large seals were often made of jade or precious stones as a symbol of social status. Until Qing dynasty, Chinese emperors renamed these seals as "Bao", which are not only used for official approvals but also for personal collections of paintings. In spite of this, the most important Heirloom Seal of the Realm has remained till now and has been passed down each generation. These days, the government seals of China are usually round in shape with five-pointed star in the centre of the circle.
The official seals are normally used as a token of office and authority. These kinds of seals are normally round, small, and often made of gold or copper. When doing business or making transactions, the official seals are often supported by the names of company representatives.
The personal seals have great variety in contents, shapes, sizes and materials. Despite these differences, private seals can also be categorized in accordance with the usages, including Free Seals with personal signatures, famous sayings or aspirations or Name Seals with names or stage names used as unique signatures on their works or letters. Of course Chinese Seals can't be separated from Seal Paste. Paste comes in a silk-based form and a plant-based form. The former is made from powdered cinnabar and mixed with oil and silk strands. Whereas, the plant-based red paste is made from fine cinnabar powder, together with castor oil and moxa, which makes the paste sponge like and tends to be a darker red and not oily at all.