Have Your Name Carved in Chinese Characters and Get Chopping
You may be surprised to learn that in China, a chop serves as a person’s signature. And when stamped in red ink, it is legally binding in all business matters.
And can you believe this? A person does not need to be present to sign a business deal as long as his or her chop is there. On the other hand, if the person is present but has forgotten the chop, business cannot be conducted.
The Chinese chop has been around since the Shang dynasty (1766-1122 bc). A person generally has different chops for different purposes – one for banking, one for legal matters, and another for anything else such as greeting cards or book collections.
The signature given by chop is safer than a handwritten signature because Chinese characters are often written by set strokes in block style (unlike Western cursive writing) and relatively easy to copy. But names carved in wood or stone reflect the unique methods and tools of the carver and are more difficult to forge.
Each chop also has suggested guidelines for usage. For instance, you should not keep your banking chop and bank book in the same place. If you lose one or the other, you are protected. But if a thief got hold of both, you’d be out of money.
Many Westerners seek chops as personal mementos to take home from a visit to China. No Chinese name is needed. The store can provide a set of characters that sound like your name.
In choosing a chop, you might like to choose the animal of your Chinese zodiac. If you were born in the year of the horse, you might buy a chop with a decorative horse on top. Then it can then sit on a shelf as a decoration. When you need to sign something, just sink it into some red ink and chop away.
Alternatively, you might choose the shape of the chop to convey a particular idea. For example, a square shape represents stability and could be used for a contract on a house. Businesses prefer a round chop because it symbolizes money rolling in.
Even the number of strokes in a name is important because there are auspicious and inauspicious numbers. So the number of strokes in a name are counted and the artisan might add or reduce the total for good fortune.
And it’s a good idea to consult the Chinese calendar to calculate which day would be most propitious for the first use of the chop. As you can see, using a chop can be a very involved and complicated matter.
In any case, what are you waiting for? Make your choice and get chopping!