The Four Treasures of Study

文房四宝

The Four Treasures

The Four Treasures denote four tools that a calligrapher will need when he works. In tradition, they refer to brush, ink stick, paper and ink stone. This name originated in Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 AD). As the dynasties turned over a few times in the Chinese long years of history, as a result, each treasure was known by a particular tool under different reigns. However, these four treasures are usually considered a compound name.

砚 ( yàn ) inkstone

Inkstone is used with water to grind the inkstick to a thick liquid ink. The earliest discovery dated back to Han Dynasty. In Tang Dynasty, calligraphers valued the quality of the stones, and the production of inkstone reached it's prime time. Stones were carefully selected from different regions of the nation, and the stones were decorated with painting. The shapes of the stones vary. Mostly they are oval, round, squre or rectangular. Some come with a lid, some don't. During Tang Dynasty, new styles rather than those shapes were formed. A small well for water can be found in all inkstone. Serious scholars will pay a lot of attention to the water they use to produce the ideal ink to work.