The "four treasures of the study" include a brush pen, an ink stick,paper, and an inkstone, which are indispensable to any Chinese painter or calligrapher. Only through these four tools can they create the beauty of traditional Chinese art. As a result, much importance has been attached to the "four treasures of the study."
The writing brush was invented very early in China's history. The use of writing brush dates to at least three thousand years ago. The prehistoric painted-pottery, the inscriptions on oracle bones, the bamboo slips and silk are all believed to be writing materials for the brush. Ancient writing brushes have also been excavated in the graves of theSpring and Autumn Period, the Warring States, the Qin and Han Dynasties. During the Tang and Song Dynasties, Xuanzhou became the national writing-brush-manufacturing center, whose products were called "Xuan-bi". "Zhuge-bi" was the best in quality in Xuanzhou. After theYuan Dynasty, the brush-manufacturingindustry of Huzhou boomed. "Hu-bi" hence replaced "Xuan-bi" to become the best-known writing brushes, with sharp, neat, round and tough characteristics.
The writing brushes are adapted to a specific purpose such as painting orcalligraphy, and for desired effect to be achieved such as clearly defined characters or blurred ones. And unlike conventional pens with a metal point, the writing brush is made from fine, soft animal hair. The resulting flexibility of the point of the brush pen is perhaps its most unique feature. A writing brush can be manipulated not only to the left and right on a two-dimensional plane, but can also be raised up and down, creating lines of varying thickness and endless variations. Many aspects ofChinese paintingand calligraphy developed as a result of the special characteristics of the writing brush.
The writing brushes are classified by the type of hair used: goat hair, wolf hair, and purple hair. Wolf hair brushes are actually made from weasel hair and purple hair brushes from rabbit hair. Goat hair brushes are soft, flexible, and absorbent. Purple hair brushes produce bold lines and are best suited to calligraphy. Sometimes, to achieve a balance between steely and feathery lines, a brush that combines hair from two different types of animals is used.
The handle is not only made from bamboo, wood, lacquer, and porcelain, but also from precious materials including mother-of-pearl inlay, ivory, andjade. Usually, painters and calligraphers have several types of brushes on hand to adapt to individual purposes and preferences.