The prized jewels used for Chinese Calligraphy and Painting.
The four jewels of the study are the four essential tools used in Chinese Calligraphy and Painting: the brush, inksticks, inkstone and paper, and are prized possessions first introduced by the literary scholars. In this article we will learn about the four jewels of the study.
The ink brush is the most coveted of the four jewels of the study. Legends say the brush was invented by the military general, Meng Tian, during the Warring States Period. Though, archaeological discoveries have found that the ink brush existed before then, which stands to reason that Meng Tian vastly improved the brush.
The body of an ink brush is typically made from bamboo, silver, gold, jade or ivory. The head of the brush may be made from animal hair or feathers, with the different feather and hair types having a different propensity for holding ink. The brush tip is made in varying shapes and sizes, dependent on the style of drawing or calligraphy that the user wants to achieve, and according to their preference.
If you are in the market for a top quality brush, head to Shanlian Town and buy a Hubi brush.
In China, ink was first made from naturally occurring minerals in liquid form before being converted into solid, stick or cake like form. The ink blocks were believed to have been invented in Eastern Han Dynasty from soot and glue.
The process of turning liquid ink from an inkstick is by grinding it slowly on a hard surface in water. As the inkstick is being ground, the consistency needs to be observed until it reaches that of ink. Some inksticks are mixed with spices or herbs to add a beautiful aroma.
High quality inksticks are still made in the She County of Huangshan city, with the sticks being decorated with beautiful patterns/calligraphy or poems.
Paper, one of the great inventions of the Chinese Civilisation. To do traditional Chinese calligraphy and/or painting, you will need a special type of paper called Xuan. This paper is soft with a high tensile strength. The paper is finely textured and is intended to last for a long time.
There are three types of Xuan paper: unprocessed, half-processed or full processed. The degree to which the paper is processed determines its quality and dictates your desired use. For instance, unprocessed papers are highly absorbent and so can reflect the subtle changes of a brush stroke, where as processed is more resistant to absorption and so best used for paintings.
The inkstone is a tool used to grind and a container for ink. It is often designed with a water cavity and reservoir. As the water flows from the cavity to the flat surface, it interacts with the grinded inkstick to produce ink, which is stored at the reservoir site.
The original inkstone was a basic flat stone with a pestle to grind the ink powder. However, with the advent of inksticks, the pestle was no longer required, and the flat stone was repurposed to accommodate for this change.
The inkstone was initially made with a basic design and out of stone, but this later changed as the Chinese started to admire and appreciate the tool used to store ink. From then, it was made out of various materials such as a copper, pottery etc., and with increasing intricate designs. Notable designs were generally passed down generation to generation as prized family heirlooms.
If your in the market to purchase an inkstone to add to your collection, then you may want to shop around for the following: Hongsi inkstone (Qingzhou), Duan Inkstone (Zhaoqing), Tao inkstone (Zhuoni) and Sheyan inkstone (Huangshan).