The “Four Treasures of the Study” 文房四宝 wén fáng sì bǎo, the brush 笔 bǐ, ink 墨 mò ink stone yàn, and the paper itself 纸 zhǐ, are fundamental to Chinese art and culture, and have represented China internationally since the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco where Xuan paper and Huimo Ink both won awards, and in recent times in the 2008 Beijing Olympics opening ceremony.
- Paper production in China started around 2,000 years ago and matured into the fine Xuan paper over 1,000 years ago. See Chinese Xuan 1,000 year old Truth paper and Xuan paper making – a Unesco intangible heritage.
- Chinese brushes are very particular with thick brush body and fine point allowing the artist to combine a variety of detail strokes and wide brushing. Xuan brushes are often mentioned with Xuan paper as one of the most famous and expensive brush types in China, they were invented around 2,000 years ago and were sent as tribute to the imperial courts since the Tang dynasty.
- Chinese ink sticks have been shown from archeology to date back over 2,000 years, to at least 256BC. Huīmò (徽墨) is one of the most famous inks, from Shexian (歙县) in Anhui province (安徽). These inks may be perfumed with musk, clove, tree oils and other Chinese medicinal aromatics.
- Inkstones are often a precious work of art in their own right, richly carved by highly trained sculptors. Shexian inkstones (歙砚 Shèyàn) have been produced since the Tang Dynasty. The stone has a black color and may also displays a variety of gold-like markings.
Of course a complete Chinese study includes much more than these four items and a full set would include other “Treasures” and tools of the scholar such as the brush-hanger (笔挂), paperweights (镇纸), a set of seals (圖章) – still used today by artists to stamp their painting with their own identification mark, and items such as the water droppers (水滴) and pots seen in the picture.
Inks (156)Inkston supplies fine Li Ting Gui inksticks from Old Hu Kai Wen workshop and Jiang SiXu Tang 姜思序堂 professional colours. Please see our Buyers Guide and related articles for more info.
Brushes (70)“落纸惊风起，摇空邑露浓，舟奇与纪事，舍此复何从！” 耿伟《咏宣州笔》 "The paper put down to paint suddenly blows up in the wind, shaking in the thick air like a boat of writing, what a complex pleasure!" Ode to a Xuan brush - Geng Wei Special Offer - Make your own brush set: 15% off any order of 5 or more individual brushes.
Art Papers (119)"轻似蝉翼白如雪，抖似细绸不闻声" "Light as onion skin white as snow, flutters like fine silk without a sound" - ode to the fineness of Xuan paper Xuan Paper, is one of the treasures of China, a Unesco recognised 2,000 year old tradition, made by hand in a 200 step process using sustainable local ingredients, especially a local tree bark. Most of the ancient…
Art Papers (119)
印章 Seals (9)佳人鬓雕文字工，藏书万卷胸次同。 –黄庭坚 "such delicate calligraphy carving, mind like a collection of scrolls" - Huang TingJian, Song Dynasty Seals are still widely used throughout Asia. Seal carving in a variety of decorative and ancient script styles is an art form still practiced today and artists and calligraphers use their personal seals to sign their work. Now you can have your own!
印章 Seals (9)
Inkstone (21)“夕阳照个新叶红，似要题诗落烟台” （司空图《偶诗五首》其一）" "The sun shines like a fresh red leaf, falling like a poem on my inkstone" - poetry of Si Kongtu. Inkstones may have started as a type of mixing palette for chinese ink, however over a few thousand years they have developed into highly collectable works of art in their own right, regarded as the chief of China’s “Four Treasures of…
Gold Leaf (1)Handmade by top Chinese workshop which also supplies the Forbidden City.
Gold Leaf (1)
装裱 Mounting (19)三分画，七分裱 "art is 30% painting, 70% mounting” - popular Chinese saying Tools for Mounting paintings - read more about mounting artwork here.
装裱 Mounting (19)
毛毡 (MaoZhan) Painting Mat (1)Painting mat or table protector, sits on top of the table and helps stop the paper slipping, absorbs excess liquids and protects the table.
毛毡 (MaoZhan) Painting Mat (1)
Brush Storage (3)Japanese brush rolls and brush storage boxes
Brush Storage (3)
水滴 (Shui Di) Water Dropper (12)A 水滴 (shuǐdī) water dropper is traditionally use to finely control the thickness of the ink. The dropper has two tiny holes for air and water, so that only a few drops of water at time are added to inkstone to mix the ink from the inkstick. Fill the dropper by sinking it in a bowl of clean water. Part of…
水滴 (Shui Di) Water Dropper (12)
Water/Ink reservoirs and 笔洗 (BiXi) Rinsing Pots (15)Part of a range of handmade designer ceramic accessories for calligraphy and painting from our Jingdezhen studio collection.
Water/Ink reservoirs and 笔洗 (BiXi) Rinsing Pots (15)
镇纸 (Zhenzhi) Paperweight (5)A selection of wrist-rests & paperweights in bronze, metal, sandalwood & designer JingdeZhen ceramics.
镇纸 (Zhenzhi) Paperweight (5)
笔挂(Bigua) Brush Hanger (2)Brush hangers are not only beautiful but also ideal for hanging brushes to dry and keep their shape. Buy one for your artist friend!
笔挂(Bigua) Brush Hanger (2)
笔架 (BiJia) Brush Rest (14)Part of a range of handmade designer ceramic accessories for calligraphy and painting from our Jingdezhen studio collection.
笔架 (BiJia) Brush Rest (14)
笔筒 (BiTong) Brush Holder (2)Brush pots and holders, part of a range of handmade Designer ceramic accessories for calligraphy and painting from our Jingdezhen studio collection.
笔筒 (BiTong) Brush Holder (2)
裁纸刀 (CaiZhiDao) Paper cutter (1)Letter-openers and paper cutters for trimming your Xuan paper.
裁纸刀 (CaiZhiDao) Paper cutter (1)
墨夹 (MoJia) Inkstick Grip (1)Handy grippers for holding an inkstick firmly without getting ink on your hands. Especially useful for well used inksticks!
墨夹 (MoJia) Inkstick Grip (1)
More Stories about the Four Treasures of the Study
Chinese Painting/ Sumi E Colour Mixing Chart
In this article we have listed some popular formulas to create new colours. The colour on the right end of each colour row is the…
Inkston supplies the finest traditional colours available from Jiang SiXu Tang and Old Hu Kai Wen: PS., if you are looking for materials for Tang…
Old Hu Kai Wen 胡开文 and Li Ting Gui 李廷珪 Inksticks
The story of the old Hu Kai Wen ink workshop and Li Ting Gui ancient inks still made today in old Huizhou in Anhui province.…
Inkstick Recipes through History
China has over 2000 years history of using and making inksticks. The industry reached its heights in the Ming and Qing Dynasty when methods were most…
Chinese Ink – traditional handmade inksticks
Inkstick introduction Chinese ink is produced in stick form rather than liquid, so it lasts for generations without drying out. To use the ink, the stick…
#inktober 2017 ink offers
inktober offer: 15% off all inksticks until end October 2017 with coupon 'inktober' try a new ink for inktober or buy one for your artist…
Inkstone Buyers Guide
This is a guide to the types of stone and how to buy them, for general introduction and workshop pictures see Ink Stone, a work of…
Xuan Paper Care, Storage and Mounting
How to look after your Xuan paper and options for mounting your finished painting or calligraphy.
Inksticks Buyer’s Guide
Over 80 handmade Hui inksticks, special mixes for different painting effects, professional, historic & collectible designs from Old Hu Kai Wen in Anhui.
Mounted and Decorative Xuan Papers
A range of Xuan papers mounted on card, gold, red white and other colours and designs, cut into square, circle or other traditional shapes and…
Brush Buyer Guide
Over 60 brushes including specialist and premium Red Star and a value range from Inkston, all quality handmade Xuan brushes from traditional workshop in Anhui. Special…