Dharmapala Thangka CentreTibetan Antiques

Old Tibetan Seals

Individual personal seals

The use of seals or stamps probably came to Tibet from China, which also changed the shape and version of them at an early stage.

In time, Tibet developed its own tradition of seal making, including new materials, shapes and instructions.

The seals offered here are individual and personal Tibetan seals, and were even used in the past. They are different from the Chinese seals you can buy today. These "new" Chinese seals are mass-produced goods, they just show a common symbol [e.g. a lotus flower or other symbol] without any meaning or reference to the owner.

The upper, smaller part of the seals served as a handle. The narrow middle part at the bottom is pierced. A leather strap was pulled through the resulting hole to attach it to the owner's clothing. In this way, it was always at hand and could be used in everyday life to seal documents.

Frequently, three dots are depicted on the upper edge of the seal. They represent the Buddhist symbol Triratna, which stands for Buddha, Sangha [the monastic community] and Dharma [the Buddhist doctrine]. These dots also show the illiterate person where the top of the seal is, preventing the seal impression from appearing upside down on the sealed document.

Because the vast majority of the Tibetan population was once illiterate, seals served as a substitute for signatures.

The last seal [No. 18] is new. It is an example of today's mass-produced seals, probably made in China.

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New Seal
10. New Seal