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Mountains and water: Chinese landscape painting
The scholar's desk
In China, painters and calligraphers were traditionally scholars. The four basic pieces of equipment they used are called the Four Treasures of the Scholar's Studio or wenfang sibao: paper, brush, ink and inkstone. A cake of ink is ground against the surface of the inkstone and water is gradually dropped from a water dropper, gathering in a well at one end of the stone. The brush is then dipped into the well and the depth of intensity of the ink depends on the wetness or dryness of the brush and the amount of water in the ink.
Ink cakes were made from carbonised pinewood, oil and glue, moulded into cakes or sticks and dried. The most prized inkstones were made of Duan stone from Guangdong province, although the one shown here is made of ceramic. Brushes had very pliable hairs, usually made from deer, goat, wolf or hare. Wrist rests gave essential support while painting details - the one shown here is carved with a plum blossom decoration. Other equipment used on a scholar's desk includes brush washers, seals, seal paste boxes, brush pots and brush stands.
In the seventeenth century print-painting manuals began to be designed to help train artists. These showed, step by step, how to paint in the style of particular artists. They illustrated a variety of subjects, from small rocks to mountains or tree branches to forests. The different brush strokes were named and explained.