The Four Treasures of Chinese Ink Wash Painting (文房四寶)
Ink wash painting (sumi-e) uses Chinese ink on Xuan paper. Different tones and shades are achieved by varying the ink density and brush pressure. It is not simply to reproduce the appearance of the subject, but to capture its soul. Sumi-e is the timeless unison of the true self and the universe. When I paint, I follow my heart and go with the flow.
Sumi-e is the expression of the mind and spirit of the artist through the Four Treasures (文房四寶) .
The Four Treasures are:
- Brush (筆): The ink brush is usually made of goat, rabbit, or yellow weasel hair. The textures are soft, hard or mixed depending on the artist’s use.
- Ink (墨) : Ink sticks are made of soot mixed with animal glue, and sometimes aromatic or medicinal powders.
- Paper (紙) : It is not just any kind of paper. It is thin mulberry bark paper (Xuan paper from China and Washi paper from Japan). It is also generically called “rice paper” in the west though rice is not one of the ingredients. It is highly absorbent and unforgiving. The brushstrokes have to be fluid and fast, and mistakes cannot be masked like on watercolour paper.
- Inkstone (硯) : The inkstone is used for grinding the ink stick with water. The four famous inkstones are Duan, She, Tao and Chengni.
I will discuss each treasure in more details in future blog posts.