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The “Four Treasures Of The Study”

The “four treasures of the study” "文房四宝: 笔、墨、纸、砚," (Pinyin: wén fáng sì bǎo: bǐ, mò, zhǐ, yàn) " The four jewels of the study: Brush, Ink, Paper, Ink stone." Theses writing tools with a long cultural tradition and unique artistic style created by the ancestors of the Chinese nation. They have played an important role in recording Chinese history, popularizing various cultures, and promoting the development of Chinese calligraphic and pointing art over thousands of years.

The traditional brush (笔bǐ) can be traced back to the Neolithic age, but became recognized during the Warring States Period, in 476 to 221 BC. Brushes are made of animal hair, usually attached to a bamboo stick. Various kinds of animal hair were once used, like goat, ox, rabbit, sheep, marten, badger, deer, wolf, each having certain properties. It is well known that brush are tools for writing and painting. In the era when there was no technology, the ancients used Engraving, knotting the way to note. With the development of the times, the brush has gradually appeared, and the it can be divided into hard, soft, and equal. Brush can be categorized by their size: large, medium and small; and also by the strength: soft (usually taken from goat), medium (taken from rabbit, or a mixture of goat and weasel hair) and hard or stiff (taken from weasel tail).

The ink (墨mò ) is a color material for writing and painting. It is commonly made by burning pine or another wood in an earthenware container, mixing dense ash with glue, and compressing it into an ink stick, or another form. An unusual antique piece of ink is shaped like a ruyi, a scepter tribute offering, that conveys wishes for good fortune. After shaping, it takes about two years for the ink to dry, in a completely dry and dark environment. Because of the differences in process and specific materials between different inks, there are various effect soft painting and calligraphy. It is precisely this situation that has also created the uniqueness of the changes in the Chinese ink painting.

Paper is one of the four great inventions in ancient China. It refers to rice paper (the name of the paper is in Xuancheng, Anhui Province). The papers used in Chinese traditional painting usually made of rice, such as straw or rice flour. In the past, the paper was very thin and light, because it has strong water absorption, and often puts the best painting effect. Therefore, rice paper is the best choice for many calligraphy painters.

Ink stone was praised by the ancients as "the first of the four treasures of the study." An ink stone is literally a stone mortar for the grinding and containment of ink. Traditional Chinese ink is usually solidified into sticks for easier transport and preservation. Water is usually kept in a ceramic container and sprinkled on the ink stone, which has a generally flat surface. The inkstick would be ground with the flat surface of the ink stone. By mixing ink with different amounts of water, the calligrapher or artist can create different densities and innumerable shades of black and gray.

On September 28th, Marmalade Mandarin will hold a Mid-Autumn Festival promotion at the Bullring Square in Birmingham. There will be a sweepstakes, and lucky participants will have the opportunity to win the Four Treasures of study. Come and join us!

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