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Four Treasures of the Studio

The tools and materials of the Chinese calligraphy and Chinese painting are made of writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper, which are called “four treasures of the studio” by Chinese people.

Writing Brush

The writing brushes are adapted to a certain purpose such as painting or calligraphy, and for desired effect to be achieved such as clearly defined characters or blurred ones. In addition, unlike pens with a metal point, the writing brush is made of smooth and soft animal hair. The resulting flexibility of the point of the brush is perhaps its most unique feature. A writing brush can be manipulated not only to the left and right on a two-dimensional plane, but can also be raised up and down, creating lines of varying thickness and endless variations. Many aspects of Chinese painting and calligraphy developed because of the special characteristics of the writing brush.

Writing Brush

The writing brushes are classified by the types of hair including goat hair, wolf hair, and purple hair. Wolf hairbrushes are actually made of weasel hair and purple hair brushes from rabbit hair. Goat hairbrushes are soft, flexible, and absorbent. Purple hairbrushes produce bold lines and are best suited to calligraphy. Sometimes, to achieve a balance between steely and feathery lines, a brush that combines hair from two different types of animals is used.

As to the handle, it is not only made of bamboo, wood, lacquer, and porcelain, but also of precious materials including mother-of-pearl inlay, ivory, and jade. Usually, painters and calligraphers have several types of brushes on hand to adapt to individual purposes and preferences.

Ink Stick

The ink stick is a unique pigment of Chinese traditional painting and calligraphy. At the beginning, natural ink or half-natural ink was widely used. The artificial ink appeared during the Han Dynasty. At that time, the most famous ink-stick was ‘Yumi-mo' produced in Anyang and Shaanxi in Qin Dynasty. The raw materials of ink stick were pine, oil and lacquer.

Four treasures of the studio

Before the Five Dynasties, the ink-producing center was in the Northern China, and then it was gradually spread to the South. The most Famous South ink-stick is ‘Hui mo' produced in Huizhou of Anhui Province.


Paper is one of the four famous Chinese inventions. It is widely believed that paper was invented by Cai Lun in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 A.D. - 220 A.D.). 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 thrived with the appearance of many high-quality products. During the Qing Dynasty, ‘Xuan Paper' was produced in Jing Prefecture of Anhui Province (Xuanzhou) became the special paper for painting and calligraphy, and was regarded as ‘the king of paper'.

Ink Stone

An ink stone is necessary if one wants to use traditional ink stick. As its name suggests, most ink stones are made of stone. The stone used must be whetted materials so to protect the brush and facilitate the grinding of the ink stick. In some ancient ruins, archaeologists discovered simple stone ink-slab that needed a pestle to grind pigments. After the appearance of artificial ink-sticks in Han Dynasty, pestle gradually disappeared. Ink stone is extremely durable. In ancient times, artisans would have their names or other words engraved on their ink stones to be passed on to their future generations.

Four treasures of the studio

Nowadays, when Chinese people go abroad, they like to send foreigners The Four Treasures of the Studio as a gift. Besides, Chinese people like to send it to Children to encourage them to make progress in their studies.