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.
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Art Papers (121)"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 (121)
Brushes (69)“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.
Inks (164)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.
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…
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)
Brush Storage (3)Japanese brush rolls and brush storage boxes
Brush Storage (3)
Gold Leaf (1)Handmade by top Chinese workshop which also supplies the Forbidden City.
Gold Leaf (1)
Water/Ink reservoirs and 笔洗 (BiXi) Rinsing Pots (11)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 (11)
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)
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)
水滴 (Shui Di) Water Dropper (10)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 (10)
笔架 (BiJia) Brush Rest (13)Part of a range of handmade designer ceramic accessories for calligraphy and painting from our Jingdezhen studio collection.
笔架 (BiJia) Brush Rest (13)
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)
装裱 Mounting (17)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 (17)
镇纸 (Zhenzhi) Paperweight (2)A selection of wrist-rests & paperweights in bronze, metal, sandalwood & designer JingdeZhen ceramics.
镇纸 (Zhenzhi) Paperweight (2)
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8 thoughts on “China’s Four Treasures of the Study”
[…] China there is a special paper, famous as one of the China’s Four Treasures of the Study, that has proved to last a thousand years. Most of the ancient Chinese painting and calligraphic […]
[…] “Modern” Chinese ink has 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, scented with aromatic tree oils and decoratively finished, are regarded as one of China’s Four Treasures of the Study. […]
[…] An Ink stone is often a precious work of art itself and rightly regarded as one of China’s Four Treasures of the Study […]
[…] to generation. So the ink stone is traditionally regarded as the chief of China’s “Four Treasures of the Study” Sheyan (歙砚) inkstones from Shexian, Huizhou in Anhui province have been produced since […]
[…] resulting inks are regarded as one of China’s Four Treasures of the Study and the most highly regarded is Huīmò (徽墨) which literally means ink from the […]
[…] China there is a special paper, famous as one of China’s Four Treasures of the Study, that has proved to last a thousand years. Most of the ancient Chinese painting and calligraphic […]
[…] following original invention of paper by Cai Lun (7-121) and is regarded as one of the “Four Treasures of the Study“. Today, Xuan paper is still made by master craftsmen using traditional techniques, […]