Seal Paper

Seal Paper: Harnessing Nature’s Strength for Sustainable Papermaking


Seal paper refers to a thick, durable paper specially made for stamping official seals or creating embossed documents. It has been used for centuries in Asia as an anti-forgery measure and continues to remain an important part of administration and record-keeping even today.

Origins in Ancient China

Seal paper originated in China as early as the Tang dynasty (618–907 AD). It was first used by government officials and royalty to authenticate important documents by stamping them with carved seals made of stone or wood. The thick, high-quality paper was able to hold intricate imprints clearly without damage. Soon, its use spread across East Asia with economic and cultural interactions. By the Song dynasty (960–1279 AD), Seal Paper had become ubiquitous in administrations across China, Korea and Japan. Several advancements were also made to the papermaking process over the centuries.

Types and Qualities of Seal Paper

Traditionally, seal paper was crafted using special raw materials like mulberry tree bark, gampi tree, and kozo tree fibers to give it strength and durability. Modern varieties still rely on high-quality paper pulps but with varied compositions. Some key types include:

Rice Paper: The most basic type made using rice straw. Thinner but takes detailed imprints. Used for less formal purposes.
Mulberry Paper: Stronger due to mulberry fibers. Maintains crisp imprints for long. Common official documentary paper.
Silk Paper: Luxurious silk fibers provide ultimate strength and richness. Used for important state documents and archives.

Ideal seal paper is stiff, smooth, flawless and takes impressions exceptionally well without smudging over time. Different grades are used suiting the importance of documents. Papermakers master specialized techniques like sizing and pressing to achieve the right attributes.

Contemporary Uses and Significance

In many Asian countries including China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam; seal paper still carries legal validity in important certificates, contracts and property records. Government agencies and companies issue hundreds of stamped documents daily on this paper for verification and record-keeping. Some notable uses include:

Official Certification: Education, identity, business and property documents require stamped seals for authentication.
Corporate Contracts: Legally binding agreements between companies mandatorily use seal paper for stamping company chops and signatures.
Court Records: Legal cases, orders, judgements are sealed and archived on durable seal paper for perseverance as evidence.
Archives: Important historical documents, artifacts and records are preserved long-term on acid-free, high quality silk seal paper.

Hence, seal paper plays a significant role in administration, legal procedures and historical archiving. Even in digitized times, its security features inspire trust in documentation. While demand has reduced, traditional paper mills continue production to serve niche applications that require resistance to tampering through centuries.

Seal paper has a long and rich history originating from ancient China. Through advancements, it developed into a crucial tool that influenced East Asian bureaucracies, governance styles and record systems. Its unique characteristics provide anti-forgery protection and allow preservation of imprints for verification purposes over long durations. Although usage is reducing with global digitization, seal paper continues serving specialized needs where paper-based documentation necessitates durability and official validation through seals. Its enduring significance lies in facilitating transparent and trusted transactions throughout history.

1. Source: Coherent Market Insights, Public sources, Desk research.
2. We have leveraged AI tools to mine information and compile it.