With the end of the Lunar New Year on Monday, February 22nd, we thought it would be fitting to spread some cultural knowledge over the history of signing in Mainland China.
Ever wondered how those beautiful Chinese seals came to be?
Originating in ancient Chinese time–during the Qin dynasty 221 – 210 B.C.–Chinese seals were used as an imperial seal, signifying approval on all documents as a “signature from the Son of Heaven”. Since then, the seal carvings have transformed into an ancient art combining calligraphy and engraving.
As the dynasties passed, another seal developed: During the Tang Dynasty, from 618-907 A.D, non-official, personalized stamps for private individual use were created. Because of this new development, the ability to procure an individual seal (signature) was a symbol of power and authority. These custom stamps were used in a variety of ways, such as proof of commercial trading, for business owners, for imperial councilmen, and even for the ruling class of people when selling their daughters to become concubines for the Emperor.
Over the last 100 years, these seals have transformed and adapted as Chinese characters developed from ancient to traditional and finally, simplified characters. Originally, these signatures were inscribed on ivory, bones, and tortoise shells. As time passed, people began carving them into jade, semiprecious stones, tiles, gold, and silver — a method that is still practiced today.
As of 2016, these signature seals have a large myriad of use cases:
Chinese artists adapted the carved seal to mark their art. As incredibly creative designers, their seals have become unique — so unique, in fact, that civilians request similar personal seals made–at a hefty price. There is a great deal of pride in finding a signature design that stands apart, and serves as an artistic expression of the person “signing”.
Businessmen in popular cities like Shanghai, Nanjing, Beijing, Chengdu, and Guangzhou, sign agreements from M&A contracts, joint ventures, and even investments with their seal of approval.
Did you know that current graduate students at the top Universities of Mainland China such as Peking University and Tsinghua receive their graduation papers, receipts of admission payments, and book receipts via seals?
With the introduction of DocuSign to the APAC community, you might wonder will become of these beautifully crafted pieces of art?
In fact, these designs are making their way right into the digital age: Many customers have actually hired professional stylus artists to replicate their seals on DocuSign:
Now, if the traditional culture of royal seals can be transformed into beautiful digital masterpieces, have you joined the trend?
After all, the Year of the Monkey is about innovation and change.