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
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.
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.
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.