Chinese Chops


The use of chops nowadays, is mainly confined to some special uses; for people who cannot sign their own name, and artists who apply their chop imprints to their work; or their use by important personages in legal and other documentation.

I fall outside these main categories, since I use handwriting to sign documents. On the internet, webpages are probably the best place to "stamp" one's mark on the work created, (- a logo if you will), since the concept of layout gives the work some artistic value. You will have seen some chops appearing in this site, all of which are of my name. It is easy to create your own in graphics software. This is what I have done, since I do not actually possess a true chop.

Surnames and Given Names

The surname always come first in Chinese, followed by the given name. Given names can be single, or double character. Some surnames are double character surnames, so chops having 2,3, or 4 character names are the norm. I have a three character name with a single character surname.

Gender Myth

It is not possible to determine the gender of the person whose chop imprint appears on any document. There ia an argument that says male names have chops whose imprint show the red characters against a white background, and that the opposite, white names on red background refer to female names. This is quite untrue. It is a matter of artistic licence. The chop carver will carve the chop in the way that the customer requests.


The surname is usually positioned near the right haif of the chop imprint, though they sometimes appear on the left.

Three character chops show the surname as the larger of the three characters. The given names are stacked one on top of the other adjacent to the surname.

Here is my name in the four combinations mentioned.

Character & Background \ Surname PostitionSurname on the rightSurname on the left
Red characters on a white background
White characters on a red background


There are a myriad of styles in which chop imprints may appear. The shape can vary also. There have been square imprints as above, circular, rectangular, oval, etc...

Likewise, the characters may appear in different forms. For clarity, often the characters appear as Kai Shu or regular style. The style used in the four chop imprints above are all called Xiao Zhuan or small seal characters. A number of books spring to mind when wanting to see different forms of Chinese writing. The most easily available is found in the Tung Shu, a chinese almanac. It has a section called the Si Ti Qian Zi Wen ( ), or Thousand Character Classic in Four Styles is its translated name. The Shouwen Jiezi ( ) and the KangXi ZiDian ( ) are other sources for small seal characters.

Here are two round seals, again of my name. You can click on these two images to get a better look.

These were created using a grid for further accuracy.
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I wish thank Li Dayun for pointing out the male and female aspect, and S.L. Lee for providing me with information which negated this view, and for answering my query on the position of the surname.

This page was last created on Thursday 20th August 1998.
© Dylan W.H.S. 1996-1998
You may e-mail me here and I shall try to get back to you promptly.