Chinese Chops Make Memorable Souvenirs of Trip: Hand-Engraved Stone Seals Represent Person’s Official Signature

Chinese Chops Make Memorable Souvenirs of Trip: Hand-Engraved Stone Seals Represent Person’s Official Signature

Everyone brings home souvenirs from their travels: postcards, toys, pictures, clothing, folk art, etc. A chop from China makes a special souvenir since it bears the owner’s name. Travelers to China will likely find no one else in the neighborhood has a chop.

And chops are so Chinese. Documents and artwork are not considered official in China until they’ve been “signed” with a person’s seal. This engraved seal, or “chop,” is unique to each person.

Chops date back to ancient times in China. They’re used on every document imaginable. Artists use them on paintings instead of handwritten signatures. While important documents are signed by hand today in China, they’re not considered official until the red seals have been affixed.

A Chop Is Like a Rubber Stamp

Think of the chop as a rubber stamp. Only instead of rubber put to a cloth stamp pad, think of a stone engraving being dipped into a pot of gooey red glue. Then both are “stamped” on a piece of paper. Same result, just a different way to achieve it.

Because the chop is a person’s “signature” for life, the Chinese give much thought as to what characters they will have engraved on their chop.

Visitors to China don’t have to worry about that. They can just have their first or last names translated into characters put on their chops. Chop makers almost always have books of first names translated into Chinese characters available for shoppers to look through. Travelers can also pick out their Chinese names online before they leave home. Mandarin Tools allows users to enter their first and last names, and indicate what characteristic they’d like their name to represent. A few seconds later, up pops the name translated into Chinese. This page should be printed out to show to the chop maker in China.

Chops Widely Available in China

Chops are widely available in China, from department stores to flea markets to tourist attractions. They come in all sizes and shapes. Chops start at a couple of dollars, then go up in price depending on the size of the chop and what it represents. For example, a chop representing a Terra Cotta Warrior makes a good souvenir to remember Xi’an by. Some chops depict an animal in the Chinese zodiac; others, a pretty woman in traditional garb.

Shoppers who get chops outside of a department store like Beijing’s Friendship Store, should be sure to bargain for the best price.

Chops are usually made of soapstone, and always hand-engraved. It only takes an experienced chop maker a few minutes to do the engraving. Watching them put a complex character on a small surface is fun.

Use Care with the Red Paste

Chops usually come with a small pot of very thick red ink. It has the consistency of paste, and is sometimes made from cinnabar. Be careful using this ink, as it stains absorbent materials and can be difficult to remove. Wipe the chop with a tissue after using it to get the remaining red ink out of the engraved areas. A tissue moistened with nail polish remover works well on stubborn stains.

Chinese Lanterns, Lotus Flower and Lucky Charms: Sky Paper Lanterns, Chinese Celebrations and Home Decoration

Chinese Lanterns, Lotus Flower and Lucky Charms: Sky Paper Lanterns, Chinese Celebrations and Home Decoration

Chinese lanterns have many claims to fame from symbols of traditional culture to works of art, lucky charms or first man made portable lighting device. Through foreign trade, they spread across Asia and the rest of the world but they remain an integral part of all Chinese celebrations. Sky lanterns or ornaments shaped like a lotus flower, they express creativity and a touch of magic beyond the material world.

Sky Lanterns and Chinese Celebrations

Made of rice paper held by a bamboo frame, lit by a candle, sky lanterns are a beautiful sight as they take to the air. The flame heats the air inside the lantern, density drops and the lantern rises, floating through the night sky as long as the candle keeps burning.

Traditionally, sky lanterns are released on the last day of the Chinese New Year celebrations, most spectacular of all at the Lantern Festival in Taipei. In China and Chinatowns around the world, the first full moon of the year is honoured in similar ways, but lanterns appear in many festivals. There are sky lanterns and paper lanterns carried through the streets in all shapes and sizes, some inscribed with puzzles to be joyfully unravelled, while families eat glutinous rice according to tradition.

Chinese Lanterns, Lotus Flower and Lucky Charms

Some say the Lantern Festival celebrates the Taoist god of good fortune and Chinese lanterns act as lucky charms year round. Traditional paper lanterns are red, often with a touch of gold, both favourite Feng Shui colours attracting good luck, wealth and positive energy. It’s no wonder they adorn businesses, restaurants and private homes.

Most highly prized is the Chinese lotus lantern, originally made from mother of pearl shells from Capiz, arranged in a flower pattern. Today lotus lanterns come in many guises but as a Buddhist sign of purity, the flower remains the perfect complement to the Chinese lantern. Lotus flower lanterns play a major role on special occasions, such as weddings or anniversaries, to ensure good fortune and a long and healthy life.

 

Paper Lanterns for Home Decoration

Chinese paper lanterns range from simple devices to intricate artwork, as seen in palace lanterns decorated with dragons and stained glass, tassels and rosewood lacquer. There are miniature lanterns, known as Baby’s Bottom, cylindrical Rolling Paper, round Big Heads, Crystal Magic, sporting geometrical designs, and largest of all, temple and festival lanterns.

All can be used for home decoration to attract good luck and add a little colour and exotic touch to any interior. Chinese lanterns are widely available but with little more than paper and ribbon, making a paper lantern is easy and cheap.