The University of Wisconsin-Platteville Confucius Institute held one of their final events for the semester on Wednesday, Dec. 6. The Confucius Institute hosted an event on the Chinese stamps and seals. Students were able to learn the significance of family seals and made a seal of their own. This was the largest turnout of the year.
Seals are an important part of the Chinese culture and are still used today by artists and scholars. They are commonly used as a signature by postal carriers and even by some banks. They are also still used for licensing and identification cards. The usage of stamps does not mean that they don’t use fingerprints as a form of identification. They have been using seals in China for hundreds of years.
In China, kids are given only two names, no middle names like we have in Western culture. People receive a given name or a first name, and a surname, another name for last name. The surname is passed down from a child’s father. Unlike western culture, the surnames are not changed after marriage. A child’s given name has some form of meaning, which varies depending on the region, time period, and social class.
Seals can be made from many different materials like stone, wood, plastic, and rubber. These vary depending on the region and time period. They are typically shaped like a square or rectangle, and the person’s name would be carved into the material creating the stamp.
The students were able to create their own seal after the mini-lecture. Students were given a piece of rubber, transparency paper, a tool to engrave the piece of rubber, and ink. First, the students were asked to write their name out in English, and a couple of people went around and translated them into Chinese. Students were given the translated name and asked to practice spelling out the name so it would look nice. Then students picked the best looking spelling of their name and traced it onto the piece of transparency paper and transferred it to the piece of rubber. After students got to engrave their name with an engraving tool onto the rubber and pressed it in ink, they had a seal. Students got to take the seal home with them if they wished.
Like most of the other events, students learned more about another culture. If anyone who’s interested in Chinese culture, keep an eye out for the Confucius’ institutes events during the spring semester.