A seal, in an East Asian context, is a general name for printing stamps and impressions thereof which are used in lieu of signatures in personal documents, office paperwork, contracts, art, or any item requiring acknowledgement or authorship. China, Japan, Taiwan, and Korea currently use a mixture of seals and hand signatures, and increasingly, electronic signatures.[1]

Chinese seals are typically made of stone, sometimes of metals, wood, bamboo, plastic, or ivory, and are typically used with red ink or cinnabar paste (Chinese: 朱砂; pinyin: zhūshā). The word 印 (“yìn” in Mandarin, “in” in Japanese and Korean, pronounced the same) specifically refers to the imprint created by the seal, as well as appearing in combination with other ideographs in words related to any printing, as in the word “印刷”, “printing”, pronounced “yìnshuā” in Mandarin, “insatsu” in Japanese. The colloquial name chop, when referring to these kinds of seals, was adapted from the Hindi word chapa and from the Malay word cap[2] meaning stamp or rubber stamps.

In Japan, seals in general are referred to as inkan (印鑑?) or hanko (判子[4]?). Inkan is the most comprehensive term; hanko tends to refer to seals used in less important documents.