The paper, ink, brush, and inkstone are essential implements of East Asian calligraphy: they are known together as the Four Treasures of the Study (T: 文房四寶 / S: 文房四宝) in China. In addition to these four tools, desk pads and paperweights are also used by calligraphers.
Special types of paper are used in East Asian calligraphy.
In China, Xuanzhi, traditionally made in Anhui province, is the preferred type of paper. It is made from the Tartar wingceltis (Pteroceltis tartarianovii), as well as other materials including rice, the paper mulberry (Broussonetia papyrifera), bamboo, hemp, etc.
In Japan, Washi is made from the kozo (paper mulberry), ganpi (Wikstroemia sikokiana), and mitsumata (Edgeworthia papyrifera), as well as other materials like bamboo, hemp, rice, and wheat.
The ink is made from lampblack (soot) and binders, and comes in sticks which must be rubbed with water on an inkstone until the right consistency is achieved. Much cheaper, pre-mixed bottled inks are now available, but these are used primarily for practice as stick inks are considered higher quality and chemical inks are more prone to bleeding over time, making them less suitable for use in hanging scrolls. Learning to rub the ink is an essential part of calligraphy study. Traditionally, East Asian calligraphy is written only in black ink, but modern calligraphers sometimes use other colors. Calligraphy teachers use a bright orange ink with which they write practice characters for students and correct students' work.
The brush is the traditional writing implement in East Asian calligraphy. The body of the brush can be made from either bamboo, or rarer materials like red sandalwood, glass, ivory, silver, and gold. The head of the brush can be made from the hair (or feather) of a wide variety of animals, including the wolf, rabbit, deer, chicken, duck, goat, pig, tiger, etc. There is also a tradition in both China and Japan of making a brush using the hair of a newborn, as a once-in-a-lifetime souvenir for the child. This practice is associated with the legend of an ancient Chinese scholar who scored first in the Imperial examinations by using such a personalized brush.
Today, calligraphy may also be done using a pen, but pen calligraphy does not enjoy the same prestige as traditional brush calligraphy.
A stone or ceramic inkstone is used to rub the solid ink stick into liquid ink and to contain the ink once it is liquid. Cheaper inkstones are made of plastic.
Inkstones are often carved, so they are collectible works of art on their own.
Paperweights come in several types: some are oblong wooden blocks carved with calligraphic or pictorial designs; others are essentially small sculptures of people or animals. Like inkstones, paperweights are collectible works of art on their own right.
The desk pad (Traditional Chinese: 畫氈, Simplified Chinese: 画毡, Pinyin: huàzhān) is a pad made of felt. It is printed with grids on both sides, so that when it is placed under the translucent paper, it can be used as a guide to ensure correct placement and size of characters. Printed pads are used only by students. Both desk pads and the printed grids come in a variety of sizes.
Works of calligraphy are usually completed by the artist putting his or her seal at the very end, in red ink. The seal serves the function of a signature.
The Arts :: Calligraphy
Artform | Styles | Tools | Study | Stroke Order | Noted Calligraphers