The literary treasure
The brush, the paper, the ink and the stone
笔, 纸, 墨, 砚, bǐ, zhǐ, mò, yàn
The brush, the paper, the ink and the stone, as well as all the accessories that surround them, have long been called "treasures" and are considered with the greatest respect.
Before delving into the study of calligraphy, it is necessary to know its instruments well.
Throughout the periods of the Chinese Empire, the scholar, man of culture and power, surrounded himself with utensils, rich or cleverly humble, which formed the support of his dream or the intimate friends of his reasoning, before become objects of desire and collection.
Ink, stone, brush and paper are, very early, designated by the expression "wenfang si bao" 文房四宝, the "four treasures of the scholar".
A small world of accessories surrounds them: paperweight, water jug, brush pot, ink stick holder, wrist rest, etc. which are so many artisanal masterpieces whose delicacy has been enriched and diversified in China, then in Japan, over the millennia.
Not content with having invented paper and indelible ink, as well as this ingeniously versatile instrument that is the paintbrush, China ensures their durability by making them imperturbably according to ancestral and refined recipes.
The Trésor des Littrés is the sum expected by connoisseurs, lovers of curiosities and all those fascinated by the culture of the Far East.
The composition of the objects of calligraphy and painting is based strictly on natural materials, the connoisseur who handles them sees in it a sesame for the relationship between man and the universe, this notion of general harmony which is the foundation of Far Eastern thought. .
Exercice sur la Préface au recueil du pavillon des Orchidées.
Selon l'oeuvre de calligraphie chinoise écrite par le célèbre calligraphe Wang Xizhi (303-361).
«Chacun porte en lui une originalité productive qui est le noyau même de son être et s’il prend conscience de cette originalité, une étrange auréole, celle de l’extraordinaire, se dessine autour de lui». Nietzche
The brush is shaped, by hand, a long and delicate operation, from the hair of goat, hare, otter, weasel, etc. The hairs are put in bundles, allowing to have a reserve of ink, only the sharp end comes into contact with the paper. The handle is most often made of bamboo, buffalo horn or a harder wood than bamboo serves as a ferrule
Brushes with different bristles
The vegetable raw material paper (mulberry, hemp, tree bark, straw, sandalwood sapwood, etc.) is mixed with a mucilage which ensures the cohesion of the fibers of the paper and prevents the wet sheets made by tank from sticking. The confection is carried out on a very fine movable bamboo mat between sticks.
“Xuan” 宣纸 bark paper from the Anhui region is still considered the best paper today.
A sheet of paper measures "si chi", 四尺 or four feet long which is approximately 69 x 138 cm.
Ink stick decorated with bamboo
The character is formed of black 黑 (above the character) and 土 (below the character) earth. It is made from carbon black of vegetable origin (ash, pine, etc.) mixed with fish or ox glue, vegetable oils and embellished with other ingredients including essences which give the ink intoxicating scents. Once the long manufacturing work is finished, when it is still malleable, it is rolled into a stick and placed in carved jujube wood molds in order to deposit decorations or characters in relief.
The ink stick is used by rubbing it on an ink stone on which a few drops of water have been deposited.
Today, there are already prepared liquid inks that must be diluted beforehand.
9 inksticks decorated with the 36 viewpoints of the yellow mountains
The ink stone
The ink stone is of natural origin, it is dug and polished, its texture must be very fine and of minimal roughness to obtain a perfectly diluted ink.
A good stone will depend on the nature of the mineral and its place of extraction. Among the stones of good quality we can mention the stones of She which are extracted from the mountain Longwei or tail of the dragon in Jiangxi and the stones of Duan in the province of Guangdong.
Modern inkstone decorated with a frog and lotus leaves