Wherever you go in China you will find merchants who are selling seals that can be crafted to your personal identity. These seals can be made from wood, plastic, metal or even jade. These personal seals are an important part of Chinese history and are still being used today. Today these personalized seals are known as chops.
The emperors of China were the first to use seals to identify official documents that were issued by the ruling family. These seals were originally known as xǐ, later renamed bǎo. The word chop is a westernization of the Chinese word and is now in common use throughout China. When the emperor sent out an official decree his representatives would take the document out to the provinces with the official chop on the document. The local official would stamp the decree with his official seal to verify that he had received it. The Emperors representative was often anxious to have the decree stamped with the chop so he could be on his way. He would tell the local representative “chop chop” and that is where the western term “chop chop” to mean hurry up originated.
The chop is still in wide use throughout China. Most Chinese will have a personal chop designed when they are born and this chop will be used on official documents as a form of identity. Since the Chinese language is character based they do not have signatures, as we know them in the west. The chop serves the same purpose as your official signature.