Seal carving, or stamp engraving, is traditionally listed as one of the Four Arts in China. A seal/stamp, also known as a chop, was for many centuries a symbol of power: emperors used it to give orders, officials used it on official documents, and civilians used it as a signature.
Late last year there was quite a buzz among the group about chops. As often happens, a flurry of activity ensued. The first activity that many members engaged in was a search for their own chop. Here are the chops that were ‘rediscovered’ and brought back into circulation:
Vivian Aumond-Capone purchased her chop in the 1980’s while taking a Chinese Brush Painting class with Ning Yeh in Huntington Beach, California. The chop has not been found yet, but here is a photo which shows it in use.
Vivian was told that one of the words on the chop means “beauty.” The hunt for the chop will continue but she is considering purchasing a new chop, perhaps with her initials on it.
Sara Kelly purchased her chop in China. She shared the story of obtaining it with us: “In 2006 I went to China and tour bus guide in Beijing said she had a cousin who carved chops. Thus she could get us a great deal and they would be ready by the end of the day. We carefully printed our full names and birth year and went on our way to the Great Wall. I ordered one for each of my sons and one for myself. As promised, they were ready that evening. Each chop was nestled in a silk box with a ceramic pot of red ‘dragon’s blood’ ink. Although I was born in the Year of the Boar, mine is carved with an impressive dragon head. It is five inches long and prints an image 1.5 inches square.
Over the course of the following year I created a series of small journal quilts about my trip to China and used the chop on the label of each one. I’ve learned that the ‘dragon’s blood’ doesn’t print well on fabric, but in the interest of authenticity, I keep trying till I get a decent image. Like so many delightful little tools in my studio, it has been buried for a while and I appreciate this opportunity to resurrect my chop.”
Kay Laboda drew the design she wanted and had it created as a stamp through an on-line source. “I rather like the sweet little guy,” says Kay. Can you tell she is partial to giraffes?
Karin McElvein purchased her chop for about $10 during a trip to China in 2001. She was visiting a temple when the opportunity presented itself. “I had forgotten until I found it that he had actually carved my name. I’m going to start using it on all my postcards!”
Sandy Wagner bought her chop during a trip to China in 1997. It was hand carved for her while she shopped at a very friendly store. It’s a bit difficult to read, she says, but “Sandy” is carved in English with Chinese characters under that. Perhaps she’ll carve it a little deeper to make it easier to read. It’s been about a year since she has used it.
Lynn Woll grew up living overseas. Her chop was made for her during 1967-68 while living in Seoul, Korea. Her maiden name is ‘Hand’ and the characters are a phonetic spelling of her name, Lynn Hand. “Funny,” says Lynn, “I hadn’t thought about it in years. When the conversation among the group started I went in search of it. Believe it or not, it was the in first place I thought I might have ‘safely put it away!’ Thanks for bringing back wonderful memories of living in Seoul with my family.”
A couple web sites were found that might be of interest. This one shows you how to make your own chop:Moo-Cow Fan Club.
This site will create your custom chop: Char4u.