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Materials and Tools for Chinese painting


Generally, Chinese painting is drawn on the rice paper. But in the fans, porcelain, bowls and dishes you also find the beautiful Chinese pictures when you shopping in the tourist shopping streets or eating in some special restaurants. Besides, the Chinese pictures are also drawn on the silk, screens, even on many ancient tombs' walls. Therefore, we can say that Chinese painting is really a very typical form of Chinese fine arts.

Writing Brush , Ink-Stick , Paper & Ink-stone
 Among the various tools of calligraphy, writing brush is peculiar to China. The brushes are varied, and white goat's hair, black rabbit's hair and yellow weasel's hair are three major types. On the basis of the function of tip, the brushes are classified into three groups: "Hard", "Soft" and "Both". The handle is made of not only bamboo, wood, lacquer and porcelain, but also some precious materials including mother-of-pearl inlay, ivory and jade.
Writing brush has such a long history that prehistoric painted pottery, inscriptions on oracle bones, bamboo slips and silks are all writing materials for brush. Some ancient writing brushes were also excavated in the graves of the Spring and Autumn Period, the Warring States, the Qin and Han Dynasties. In the Tang and Song Dynasties, Xuanzhou a small town at foot of Yellow Mountain, became the national writing-brush-producing center, whose products were called "Xuan-bi", and "Zhuge-bi" was the best in quality in Xuanzhou. After the Yuan Dynasty the brush-producing industry of Huzhou, a small town close to Hangzhou (West Lake), boomed, and "Hu-bi" replaced "Xuan-bi". The characteristics of "Hu-bi" were sharp, neat, round and tough.
The ink-stick is the unique pigment of Chinese traditional painting and calligraphy. At the initial stage natural ink or half-natural ink was generally used. It was during the Han that artificial ink appeared.  Before the Five Dynasties the ink-producing center was in the North, then it reached the South. The most celebrated South ink-stick was "Hui-mo", which was produced in Huizhou of Anhui.
Paper (the background of this page you are reading now is a kind of writing paper made in Qing Dynasty) is one of the most famous Chinese inventions. It is widely accepted that paper was invented by Cai Lun in the Eastern Han. After the Eastern Jin Dynasty, paper was extensively used instead of traditional writing materials such as bamboo slips and silks. Various methods of producing paper emerged one after another.

 In the Tang and Song Dynasties, the paper producing industry was very thriving. Celebrated products in best quality appeared one after another. In the Qing "Xuan-zhi" produced in Jing Prefecture of Anhui (Xuanzhou), became the special paper for painting and calligraphy, and was regarded as "the king of the paper".
Ink-stone is the most important of "four treasures of the study". Because of its solid texture ink-stone can be handed down from ancient times.

In the ruins of primitive society the archaeologists discovered simple stone ink-slab that needed a pestle to grind pigments. After artificial ink-sticks appeared in Han, pestle gradually disappeared. There were pottery ink-slab, lacquer ink-slab and copper ink-slab in the Han Dynasty as well as stone ink-slab. Among the stone ink-slabs, the round tripod pieces were the most typical. During the Wei, Jin and Northern-and-Southern Dynasties, round tripod porcelain ink-slabs were in vogue. It was in the Sui and Tang that "Piyong" inkstone having circular legs appeared.

Ancient tools of calligraphy included not only brush, ink-stick, paper and ink-stone, but also some accessories such as penholder, brush pot, ink box, paperweight, seal, and seal box. The raw materials of these tools were pottery, porcelain, copper, iron, lacquer, wood, bamboo, stone, jade, jadeite, agate and coral. 

The ink slab is indispensable for Chinese calligraphy. It originated very early. Most ancient ink slabs unearthed by archaeologists were made in the Western Han Dynasty, when their forms were basically established. The ink slab is also called ink stone or ink tile, and is a Special Chinese cultural instrument, known as one of the "four treasures in a study". It was considered by ancient Chinese as the first treasure of the four treasures. The ink made by grinding an ink stick on a good ink slab is fine and smooth and suiting the brush. Either for calligraphy or painting it is indispensable. At the same time a good ink slab concentrates in it the art of painting, calligraphy, sculpture and word carrying , making itself not only a valuable practical cultural instrument but also a handicraft with a high artistic value.
  Generations of Chinese painters and calligraphists have counted on the ink stick to add to the artistic effect of their works. The lampblack ink stick is made of selected refined lampblack and pure cowhide glue mixed with musk, gold foil and some traditional Chinese medicinal spices in strict conformance with age-old traditional methods and formula. Its outstanding features are: It is solid and emits ink readily. Its ink is black with a luster like a purple jade, endurable and not fading. It will not clog when the brush is pressed, and will not halo on paper, it is fragrant and anti-corrosion. Words written with it are very when dark and not grayish when light. It can show gradations. So the lampblack ink stick is good for calligraphy and painting.
  The pine soot ink stick is made of especially fine pine soot. After rinsing and sieving, the pine soot is mixed with cowhide glue, borneol and precious Chinese medicinal spices. The ink of such ink stick is dark and not lustrous, suitable for repairing old paintings and classic scripts.  The colored ink sticks include red, yellow, blue, white and green ink sticks. Besides being used for coloring of the traditional Chinese painting, it is also used for other graphics.