The Four Treasures of the Study

Four Treasures of the Study, also known as Four Jewels of the Study or Four Friends of the Study, are different expressions of the four essential implements in Chinese Calligraphy: The ink brush, ink, paper, and inkstone.

The ink brush

The ink brush is the most ancient of the Four Treasures, with the fact that the oldest brush found so far dates back to the Han dynasty (202 BC–220 AD).The body of the brush are usually made from bamboo, or special materials as silver, gold, jade, ivory or sandalwood. The head of the ink brush can be made from animal hair or feathers, such as white goat hair, black rabbit hair, yellow weasel hair, or a combination of these. Each type of hair has a different rigidity; each type of ink brush has a different shape and size, thus results in different appearance of the handwriting. Scholars can choose a certain type of ink brush under a specified circumstance according to their preference.

Chinese ink brush


Ink is a liquid used to color a surface. The first inks used for writing in the history were made from naturally occurring minerals while currently it is made from soot and binders. Some higher quality ink also mixed with powdered spices and herbs, or add aroma to provide nice smell. In order to be got preserved easily and convenient to carry, ink usually comes in the form of inksticks which should be mingled with water first until the right consistency is achieved. They are often dedicatedly decorated with poems, patterns, or calligraphy, in this way were collected as books are. As the time goes by, the cheaper and bottled inks can be found easily nowadays and provide more convenience.


Calligraphy requires a special type of paper known as Xuanzhi, which different from the paper we use today. This particular form is soft, fine-textured, moth resistant, has a high tensile strength, and remarkable longevity. Paper type includes unprocessed, half-processed or processed. The processing dominantly determines the paper quality: unprocessed papers are absorbent and malleable, as processed papers are more resistant to absorption and stiffer.


An inkstone is a ware for grinding and containment of ink. Add a small amount of water; grind the end of the inkstick to produce ink on the flat surface of the inkstone. An inkstone is often designed with a water-holding cavity and water reservoir. The water on the other side of the water-holding cavity flows into the flat surface in time and become an ink reservoir as the ink is used. Inkstone was firstly a mortar or a stone, with the rise of appreciation of beauty; it can be of various size and often display a delicacy of carving.

traditional Chinese inkstone

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