I see these the three words "stamp", "seal", and "chop" used to refer to what seem to be almost the same thing.

photo of a "chop"
Image source: ThoughtCo.

I'm not sure if there's any distinction here, they all seem to be:

CC-CEDICT: 印章 (yìn​zhāng​) seal / signet / chop / stamp / CL: 方

Perhaps there's some nuance here I'm unaware of.

Question: Are the words "stamp", "seal", and "chop" synonymous (all meaning 印章)?

  • 5
    This sounds a bit more like a question about the English words than about Chinese. An answer that analyses the differences between the words stamp/seal/chop/signet would probably focus more on the meaning of these words in an English/European cultural context. You might have better luck asking this on English.SE. Still an interesting question to me for sure.
    – Elliot Yu
    Jun 20, 2022 at 23:46
  • 1
    I thought that too, but at the same time, there may be nuance on the Chinese side that affect how they translate into English.
    – Becky 李蓓
    Jun 20, 2022 at 23:48
  • 5
    In any case the first distinction/mismatch that comes to mind involves the physical aspect of these forms of printing. In Chinese 印 seems to mainly refer to transferring pigments onto a surface using a stamp, with the exception of some forms of makers' marks on pottery. On the other hand, signet or seal might be an imprint in wax using a form, which only involves the template and the medium on which the mark is made.
    – Elliot Yu
    Jun 20, 2022 at 23:54
  • 4
    @r13 en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seal_(East_Asia) "In the western world, Asian seals were traditionally known by traders as chop marks or simply chops, a term adapted from the Hindi chapa and the Malay cap, meaning stamp or rubber stamps."
    – 范阮煌
    Jun 21, 2022 at 3:56
  • 2
    @范阮煌 Note the disclaim on the article: "This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed."
    – r13
    Jun 21, 2022 at 11:18

3 Answers 3


there may be nuance on the Chinese side that affect how they translate into English

this one quoted from a comment. yes, there are.

generally, in sequence, the formality is: “璽”, “寶”, “印”, & “章” in chinese; the equivalent in english is: “seal”, “stamp” & “chop”

the official “stamp” of a nation is named “national / state seal” (國璽), like:

National seals of the Republic of China

The National Seal of the Republic of Korea

State Seal of Japan

roughly, the “stamp” used by an emperor is called “寶”. occasionally, the national seal is also called “寶”

the most famous one is “乾隆御覽之寶”


every books, paintings “read” by emperor 乾隆 had this 🙀

these two, “璽” & “寶” are special, most of the time, it was translated as “the seal of . . .”

any ”stamp” for authentication (individuals, companies, institutions, officials), is named “印” in chinese.

eg, the seals on calligraphies, paintings would implied that it’s an authenticated products of the owner of the seal.

or, an official stamp (官印), the seal / stamp of any governmental department

most of the time, “印” is translated as “the stamp of . . .” or “the seal of . . .”

though “印” & “章” is used together, “章” is less formal than “印”

the most singnificant example is “閒章” (leisure chop / stamp?), which is a “stamp” with lucky verse, proverb, or poem.

this one would be translated as “stamp”, or “chop”

last, there’s a specified character “鈐” (u+9210), used as a verb, which means “to transfer pigments onto a surface using a stamp”

last, if you can read literary chinese, and have access to internet archive, there’re books talked about sigillography (“印學”) 😸

have fun :)

  • 1
    Sigillography, also called sphragistics.
    – Michaelyus
    Jun 22, 2022 at 13:51
  • 1
    @Michaelyus , omg, sigillography 🙀 thanks for the correction, you exposed my ignorance lah 😹 answer is edited, again, thanks a lot 😸 Jun 22, 2022 at 14:24

There is a problem that both English and Chinese share, which is that the nuances of these words and their use in context range over numerous things, including: an object that can be held in the hand, the design on the object, a process that uses the object, the result of the process, and the social effect on an object that has been subjected to the process. Many words in both languages can be applied to different parts of this range of meaning.

Both languages also have verbs or modifiers that can be used with these words. Chinese has the additional flexibility of sometimes combining words.

Most of what I say below comes from various dictionaries have on Pleco. It is hard for me to type traditional character, so I will mostly mix in simplified ones.

At first 璽 was a term for something in common use, but since the Qin dynasty, it became a term reserved for what the emperor had. What the common people had was then called a 印. During the Han Dynasty, seals of officials began to be called 章 and 图章.

During the Tang Dynasty, Empress Wu substituted the word 寶 for 璽 because of the phonetic similarity of the latter term to 死. Also during the Tang Dynasty, what officials and private individuals used could be called 记 (mark?), 朱记 (red mark?), 钤记, (locked mark? for a low ranking official), 关防 (seal prevention?), 图章 (document seal?), or 花押 (embellished signature/mark?).

The most general term appears to be 印 for what the object does. The term 印章 appears to imply that it is a sign of authenticity. I am guessing it originally emphasized the unique design on the object because of the character 章. The term 图章, according to one dictionary, seems to emphasize the use with documents. It defines the term saying: 图书印章。后泛指印章为图章。Both 印章 and 图章 can refer both the object and the impression it leaves on a document.

There is also the term 印信, which seems to emphasize the confidence you can have in the authority behind the mark. One dictionary says that it originally applied to company seals but now generally applies to seals of government organizations.





In Chinese, we have: enter image description here

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