Discover Chinese Tradition: Create a Unique "Chop" Activity

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Updated on Sep 18, 2012

Since ancient times, Chinese people have signed artwork and official documents with their names as well as a chop. The chop is a symbol, typically set inside a square, or four squares within a larger square. It usually contains unique calligraphic characters or motifs. Help your child design and print his own chop! This activity provides a perfect opportunity to teach him about an ancient Chinese tradition that still exists in present day.

What You Need:

  • Paper
  • Pencil
  • Potato, sponge, Styrofoam, or large eraser (optional)
  • Watercolor paint or ink
  • Paintbrush

What You Do:

  1. Share the tradition of chop design with your child. Explain they he can create his own, either referring to traditional Chinese characters or by creating brand new motifs. You may want to note that, although artists typically carve chops in jade or linoleum, the technique will be modified to make it accessible to them.
  2. Give your child a chance to sketch different ideas on scratch paper. Remind him that he can use geometric shapes, repeating patterns, simple calligraphic lines, dots, or representational images. He should be able to contain the design within a square or rectangle to keep his creation in line with traditional methods.
  3. Have your child create a final draft of his chop, using ink or watercolors. Tell him that he can choose to use only red ink or paint if he wants his chop to replicate its Chinese counterpart, but that it's perfectly fine to create a new and modern color design.
  4. Have your child emulate the printmaking aspect of chop-creation by helping him carve his chop into half of a potato, a block of Styrofoam, or a large eraser. For larger or simpler chops, he can use cut pieces of sponge.
  5. Tell your child to brush a thin layer of ink, watercolor, or tempera paint on the chop and press it to paper to print it.

Consider using this chop activity as a conclusion to a larger Asian art project, such as scroll painting or Sumi-e painting. Artists traditionally place the chop mark at the base of the painting, print, or document.

Serena Makofsky has a multiple subjects teaching credential with an emphasis in cross-cultural instruction. She taught in inner city classrooms for many years. She also writes curriculum for English language learners.

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