Seals were first used in the Shang Dynasty (ca. 1600–ca. 1050 B.C.) in government offices, a representation authority and power. Much later, in the Qin Dynasty (221–206 B.C.) Qin Shi Huang unified China and commissioned a seal to be made resembling the shape of Heshi Bi, an important carved jade stone. This shape became the imperial seal of China.
Seals were made by specially trained, sophisticated artisans or craftsmen in China. There were strict rules about the materials used to make seals that differentiated class ranks. For example, seals used by the State were made of jade, a precious stone. Government officials were also allowed to acquire seals known as yin, which would normally be made of bronze. From the Qin Dynasty on, seals began to play an important role in Chinese culture and are used to the present day.