治潁珍藏 | ZhiYing Collection | 端石鼻烟壸 | Duan Stone Snuff Bottle
砚台 | Ink Stone
The ink stone is Chinese in origin and is used in calligraphy and painting. Extant ink stones date from early antiquity in China. The device evolved from a rubbing tool used for rubbing dyes dating around 6000 to 7000 years ago. The earliest excavated ink stone is dated from the 3rd century BC, and was discovered in a tomb located in modern Yun Meng, Hubei. Usage of the ink stone was popularized during the Han Dynasty. Stimulated by the social economy and culture, the demand for ink stones increased during the Tang Dynasty (618-905) and reached its height in the Song Dynasty (960–1279). Song Dynasty ink stones can be of great size and often display a delicacy of carving. Song Dynasty ink stones can also exhibit a roughness in their finishing. Dragon designs of the period often reveal an almost humorous rendition; the dragons often seem to smile. From the subsequent Yuan Dynasty, in contrast, dragons display a ferocious appearance. The Qian Long Emperor had his own imperial collection of ink stones catalogued into a twenty-four chapter compendium entitled Xi Qing Yan Pu. Many of these ink stones are housed in the National Palace Museum collection in Taipei.
Books and scholarship on the various ink stones of China existed chiefly in Japan, where a long bibliography on the subject exists. Ink stones should be appreciated in the context of the traditional scholar's studio culture and the appreciation of furnishings, antiques, paper, seals and all other associated objects. Members of the Chinese literati, such as the Song Dynasty's Ouyang Xiu, contributed greatly to this new culture.
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