Homestay Cultural Activity – Seal Carving

The history of Chinese seals

Chinese seals have over 3700 years of history, and are still used today to stamp official documents and sign important letters.

You will also see traditional Chinese seals stamped onto paintings and artwork, as a way of identifying the artist in a simple, clear manner. Historically, collectors and curators would add their seal to the work too, in order to provide a record of the artwork’s exhibitions.

Over the centuries, seals have been made from a wide variety of materials – including stone, jade, sandlewood and ox horn. 

Learning some popular characters

To start with, our au pairs had a short lesson introducing the theory of Chinese characters and their long history over the years. 

This included an introduction to the popular characters one may carve on a seal, as well as various Chinese words related to seals and stamping.

Practicing their calligraphy

Next, they had the opportunity to practice their calligraphy, drawing out beautiful characters in various traditional scripts and styles.

They learnt how to write their names in Chinese characters as well as more traditional words for prosperity or peace.

Writing onto the stone

Once their calligraphy was perfected and a suitable inscription chosen, the au pairs carefully traced their characters onto the stone blocks before etching them out.

This requires a great eye for detail, since any slight mistakes could completely change the meaning of the character! The blocks provide a very limited amount of space for writing, so they had to be incredibly precise!


Finally, it was time to add some ink and test out their new seals! 

Everyone had chosen a slightly different design, whether that was by picking their name or by choosing a traditional inscription using different scripts and styles. 

This was a fantastic opportunity to come together and learn about Chinese culture and history while developing their artistic and calligraphy skills! 

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