Seal knobs are the carved decorations on the top of Chinese-style seals.

Seal Knobs

Although in modern times tigers and dragons are most common (at least for sale to tourists) in ancient times there was a wide variety in seal knobs. Click on a link where available in the list for more information or illustrations. Contact me if you have any corrections, questions, or additions.

Belt hook knob see: dai gou niu

Bi niu 鼻鈕 Nose knob

Bracelet knob/handle see: chuan niu

Bridge knob see: qiao niu

Camel knob see: tuo niu

Chi hu niu 螭虎鈕 Chi-tiger knob

Chuan niu 釧鈕 Pinyin: chuàn niŭ. Bracelet knob/handle.

Coin knob see: quan niu

Dai gou niu 帶鈎鈕/帶鉤鈕 Pinyin: dài gōu niŭ. Belt hook knob. See also: Gou niu.

Deer knob see: lu niu

Dou niu see: fu dou niu

Dragon knob see: long niu

Elephant knob see: xiang niu

Fish knob see: yu niu

Fu dou niu 覆斗鈕 Upside-down grain measure knob

Gou niu 鉤鈕 Pinyin: gōu niŭ. Hook knob. In the shape of a belt hook. See also: Dai gou niu.

Gui niu 龜鈕 Turtle knob

Hook knob see: gou niu

Horse knob see: ma niu

Hu niu 虎鈕 Pinyin: hŭ niŭ. Tiger knob.

Huan niu 環鈕 Pinyin: huán niŭ. Ring/circle/link knob.

Jue niu 橛鈕 Pinyin: jué niŭ. Peg knob. During the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127 CE) the nose knob evolved into the peg knob (without a cord hole).

Kuai niu 塊鈕 Pinyin: kuài niŭ. Block knob.

Lion knob see: shi niu

Long niu 龍鈕 Pinyin: lóng niŭ. Dragon knob.

Lu niu 鹿鈕 Pinyin: lù niŭ. Deer knob.

Ma niu 馬鈕 Horse knob

Nie niu 捏鈕 Pinyin: niē niŭ. Pinch knob [a knob you hold between your fingers].

Niu 鈕 Pinyin: niŭ. Knob, handle. Although seal knobs have sometimes been translated into English in some books as “buttons” (since the word “niu” can also mean a button—in the sense of an on-off switch) this is misleading and shouldn’t be used.

Nose knob see: bi niu

Pavilion knob see: ting niu

Peg knob see: jue niu

Pinch knob see: nie niu

Qiao niu 橋鈕 Bridge knob

Quan niu 泉鈕 Pinyin: quán niŭ. (Historic) coin knob.

Ren xing niu 人形鈕 Pinyin: rén xíng niŭ. Human figure/shaped knob.

She niu 蛇鈕 Pinyin: shé niŭ. Snake knob.

Sheep knob see: yang niu

Shi niu 獅鈕 Pinyin: shī niŭ. Lion knob.

Snake knob see: she niu

Stake knob. Flat bronze seals with a stick-like handle. A practical style for official seals used since the Jin Dynasty (265-420 CE).

Table knob see: tai niu

Tai niu 台鈕 Platform/terrace knob

Tan yin 坛紐 Pinyin: tán niŭ. Altar knob. To increase literacy the mainland Chinese have, since the 1950s, used “simplified” characters. As a result one simplified character may be used for more than one traditional Chinese character. The traditional character 罈, pronounced “tan,” means a jar; the character 壇, also pronounced “tan,” means an altar or raised plot of land. I have used the simplified character in this entry although the “altar/raised plot of land” character should probably properly be used.

Tao yin 套印 Pinyin: tào yìn. Cover-and-covered seal.

Ti liang niu 提梁鈕 Pinyin: tí liáng niŭ. Handle/strap knob.

Tiger knob see: hu niu

Tile knob see: wa niu

Ting niu 亭紐 Pinyin: tíng niŭ. Pavilion knob.

Tuo niu 駝鈕 Pinyin: tuó niŭ. Camel knob. Given to the northern ethnic minorities during the Han, Wei, and Jin Dynasties (206 BCE-581 CE).

Turtle knob see: gui niu

Wa niu 瓦鈕 Tile knob

Xi niu 觿鈕 Pinyin: xī niŭ. A knob in the shape of a traditional bone pick for untying knots (“xi”).

Xiang niu 象鈕 Pinyin: xiàng niŭ. Elephant knob.

Yang niu 羊鈕 Pinyin: yáng niŭ. Sheep knob. Given to the northern ethnic minorities during the Han, Wei, and Jin Dynasties (206 BCE-581 CE).

Yin bi 印鼻 Pinyin: yìn bí. Seal knob or handle, literally: seal nose. See also: yin niu.

Yin bing 印柄 Pinyin: yìn [bing]. Seal handle, an elongated handle on ancient bronze seals.

Yin niu 印鈕 Pinyin: yìn niŭ. Seal decoration, seal knob, literally: seal knob. See also: yin bi.

Yu niu 魚鈕 Fish knob

Zhu niu 柱鈕 Pinyin: zhù niŭ. Post knob.

Zi mu yin 子母印 Pinyin: zì mŭ yìn. “Mother and child seal,” a small seal nested inside a larger one.