B1 Intermediate US 56 Folder Collection
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In the last episode we talked about how Chinese
calligraphy works, its history and how it's

practiced. So if you haven't seen that video
- please click right here to watch.

In this episode we're going to talk about
the materials that are used in Chinese calligraphy

and the history behind them.
The four essential elements of Chinese Calligraphy
are the brush, the ink stick, the ink stone

and the paper. These items are known in Chinese
tradition as "the four treasures of knowledge."

Because, well, the idea is that when you learn
how to write, you become literate, which - in

turn - then you can learn how to obtain and
pass on knowledge.

So the brush tip is usually made of animal
hair such as rabbit, wolf or goat, inserted

into a hollow bamboo tube. The tip is shaped
to come to a point at the top so that it can

make sharp thin lines when held upright, and
wider lines when tilted to its side. Like

all brushes, the brush comes in different
sizes depending on the shape and the size

that you want your brushstrokes to be.
So the ink stick is where the ink comes from.
It's made from pine soot that comes from

the inner core of a tree, mixed with a binding
agent such as animal glue. To be used, it

needs to be ground with water against the
next item, the ink stone, until it reaches

the right consistency. In fact, grinding the
ink was an art in itself that apprentices

of calligraphy had to master before they could
continue to develop their skill in writing.

So how do you, how do you know it's at the
right consistency?

Hmm, you can feel the, the fluid, if it's
too thick or too thin.

I can try. I think it's still too thin.
Too thin.
The quality of the stone is also important
and it needs to have a fine grain in order

to produce the best ink quality. Over time,
ink stones have actually also became a treasured

and collectible works of art in themselves
since they would usually be made of very high

quality stones, and also be carved or decorated
in very beautiful and elaborate ways. Nowadays

you can also buy pre-ground and pre-mixed
ink that comes in bottles. But the quality

of it is significantly lower than the ink
that comes from rubbing ink sticks. Bottled

ink would usually be used as student grade
ink for people who are just learning how to

do calligraphy.
And finally we have the paper, a historic
Chinese invention by the way that was invented

in the Han dynasty in around 100 BCE and became
widely used in China in around 100 CE . Prior

to the invention of paper, people carved into
stone and ivory, as well as wrote on bamboo

and silk. But the Han dynasty was a very bureaucratic
dynasty and they needed a lighter, cheaper

and more efficient way to keep records. I
mean my filing cabinet would be full in no

time if I wrote on stone tablets. And therefore
paper to the rescue! Its early types would

have tree bark mixed with things like hemp,
pressed flat and left out in the sun to dry.

Calligraphers use a special type of paper
called Xuanzhi, also known as rice paper - made

of a particular specie of Elm mixed with rice.
The paper also comes in different types that

have different absorption rates, creating
different types of brushstroke qualities.

In addition to these "four treasures" Some
Calligraphers also sometimes use paper weights

which are also often carved and decorated
pieces of stones and wooden blocks and it

can also sometime be collectible works of
art just like the ink stones.

As I mentioned in the previous episode - artists
would stamp their works with their personalized

seals. The practice of sealing in China dates
back to as early as 544 BCE. The seal is used

by people and organizations to effectively
act as a verifiable signature. It is also

common for the owners of the art and calligraphy
to seal works in addition to the artist. Some

works that have passed through multiple owners
over the years may have dozens of red seals

all over them. A seals could made of stone,
ivory, wood or jade and is dipped in a red

paste made of cinnabar with water mixed with
honey or oil. And, similar to other calligraphy

materials - seals could also be beautiful
works of art in themselves. The character

design of the stamped part can come in many
unique forms and styles, and the stamp body

is also often elaborately carved.
So do you have any favourite calligraphy styles
or calligraphy artists? whether they're Eastern

or Western, whichever the language. Let me
know in the comments.

A seals could made of stone, ivory, wood or
jade and is dipped in a red paste made of

… I don't know.
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What is Chinese Calligraphy? Pt. 2: Materials | ARTiculations

56 Folder Collection
Li Rose published on June 12, 2019
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