Produced in Zhaoqing of Guangdong Province in south China, Duan Inkstone is reputed as one of the Four Famous Instones in China with She Inkstone in Anhui Province, Tao Inkstone in Gansu Province, and Chengni Inkstone in Shanxi Province.
According to documents, Duan Inkstone was first produced during the Wude reign (618-626) of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). It is made of Duan stone from the Duanxi River running at the foot of Lanke Mountain, hence the name. Famed as having fine nature and doing no harm to the brush, Duan Inkstone has earned a high reputation among Chinese scholars ever since.
The procedure to make a Duan Inkstone include four steps: stone picking, selection, engraving and box matching, among which stone picking and engraving are the two most important steps. It is very hard to hand-pick the stones with no flaw, and other alternative tools such as dynamite are forbidden. Engraving stresses good conception, fine shape of the stones and engraving skills, which usually has flying dragon, flowers and birds, figures, mountains and waters as the decoration. The matching boxes are also very daintily chosen, often made of purple sandalwood, and rosewood.
Duan Inkstone has various styles, and new-style products are designed one after another, such as Doufang inkstone, engraved rectangular inkstone and engraved natural inkstone, etc. In recent years, lots of archaized products were produced for the expanded export demand.