Table of Content – Tools and Materials Database

On this page we provide you with a detailed overview of all our Knowledge Base articles which relate to the relevant tools and materials used in Asian Brush Painting – i.e. Sumi-e / Ink and Wash Painting, Fineline, Gongbi – but which are used for Japanese and Chinese Calligraphy at the same time due to their common historical roots.

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The Four Treasures of the Studio – essential tools in Chinese / Kanji Calligraphy and Sumi-e (文房四寶 / Wen Fang Si Bao / Wen Fang Ssu Pao)


The Foundation of Traditional Chinese Arts

When we think of traditional Chinese arts, whether we think of Calligraphy or Painting, images in stark black and white may often come to mind. Indeed, for much of history, the Chinese art tradition has relied on a very limited set of materials and tools in order to realize artistic visions. With only four elements, the Chinese calligrapher or painter is able to evoke innumerable images and concepts. These elements collectively are known as the Four Treasures of the Studio.

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An Overview of Chinese Paper


Characteristics of Chinese Paper: Absorbency and Treatment (Processing State)

Traditional Chinese arts stress the quality of the materials and tools used just about as much as their artistic use. Even more than choosing Ink or Brush, the Paper selected has a direct impact on the type of Script you might lean toward.

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Types, Structure and Composition of Chinese and Japanese Brushes


Explanation of the Structure of a Chinese Brush

Tip, Spine and Reservoir : Most standard Chinese Brushes have a defined tip. Shorter hairs form the core, or spine, of this tip. Longer hairs are arrayed to come to a point where the spine ends. Between the spine and the outside, shorter and sometimes softer hairs are used to form a sort of reservoir into which ink will flow, welling up from the Ink Slab. The core and outside will usually be of the same fur type, while the reservoir hairs might be from a different animal. This reservoir is what allows the Brush to hold enough ink for more complex characters, or even for a series of characters without the need to recharge the Brush.

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What is the History and Usage of Chinese Seals (印章/Yin Zhang/Yin Chang: History and Usage)?


The Role of Chinese Seals for Authorization and Display of Privilege

If you have ever seen a work of Chinese art, you have probably noticed small, and sometimes large, red emblems interspersed through the work. These emblems may sometimes appear disruptive, but they are in fact integral to Chinese ideas of authorship and authentication. No work of Chinese calligraphy or painting is complete without the application of the author’s seal.

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