FOUR TREA­SURES OF THE STUDY (文房四宝)

is an ex­pres­sion used to re­fer to the brush, ink, pa­per and ink stone used in Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy and paint­ing

Asian Geographic - - CULTURE -

Pa­per (Zhi)

Its in­ven­tion is fa­mously cred­ited to Cai Lun, a court eu­nuch who pre­sented it to Emperor Hedi in 105 AD. Com­mon ma­te­ri­als for mak­ing pa­per are fi­bres of plants like hemp, bark and grass stems.

Brush (BI)

A wide va­ri­ety of brushes are used in Chi­nese cal­lig­ra­phy. Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ev­i­dence re­veals that brushes were writ­ing tools com­monly used in the Shang Dy­nasty, which ex­isted from 1766 to 1122 BC. A brush typ­i­cally com­prises a bam­boo or wood han­dle and a tip made of an­i­mal hair. They can be cat­e­gorised by their size and also by the tex­ture of brush hairs. A good brush tip must ful­fil four cri­te­ria: It has to be pointed and round and com­prised of flex­i­ble hairs of uni­form length.

Ink stone (Yàn)

An ink stone is lit­er­ally a stone mor­tar for the grind­ing and con­tain­ment of ink. Tra­di­tional Chi­nese ink is usu­ally so­lid­i­fied into sticks for eas­ier trans­port and preser­va­tion. Water is usu­ally kept in a ce­ramic con­tainer and sprin­kled on the ink stone, which has a gen­er­ally flat sur­face. The ink stick would be ground with the flat sur­face of the ink stone. By mix­ing ink with dif­fer­ent amounts of water, the cal­lig­ra­pher or artist can cre­ate dif­fer­ent den­si­ties and in­nu­mer­able shades of black and grey.

Ink (Mo)

In an­cient times, ink came in the form of solid blocks that were com­monly made by burn­ing pine or an­other wood in an earth­en­ware con­tainer, mix­ing its soot with glue and com­press­ing the mix­ture into an ink stick. An un­usual an­tique piece of ink is shaped like a ruyi, a scep­tre trib­ute of­fer­ing, that con­veys wishes for hap­pi­ness and good for­tune. Af­ter shap­ing, it takes about two years for the ink to dry in a to­tally dry and dark en­vi­ron­ment.

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