The four treasures of the study are writing brush, ink stick, ink slab and paper. The ink-stick is the unique pigment of Chinese traditional painting and calligraphy. At the initial stage natural ink or half-natural ink was generally used. It was during the Han that artificial ink appeared. At that time the most famous ink-stick was "Yumi-mo" produced at Qianyang, Shaanxi. The raw materials of ink-stick were pine, oil and lacquer. Before the Five Dynasties the ink-producing center was in the North, then it reached the South. The most celebrated South ink-stick was "Hui-mo", which was produced in Huizhou of Anhui.
Hui Ink Sticks, formerly called Li Ink Sticks, were made by Xi Chao and Xi Tinggui, ink stick makers of the Tang Dynasty. They were so appreciated by Li Yu, an emperor of the Later Tang Dynasty, that he bestowed Xi Tinggui the imperial surname Li, and appointed him to the post of Court Ink Master. The ink sticks he made was thus called Li Ink Sticks, a saying had it at that time that "It is easier to get gold than to get a Li Ink Stick". And later, ink stick making became a popular trade in Shezhou. After the place was renamed Huizhou, the ink sticks made here were often referred to as Hui Ink Sticks.
With the improvement and innovation of technology, Hui Ink Sticks have been widely loved by painters and calligraphers for their special quality: they are hard but easy to be moistened, black with a beautiful sheen and not sticky to a writing brush or soaking to the paper. With a favorable fragrance a brush with Hui ink moves more smoothly on paper. Writings and paintings in this ink are pitch-dark, ever-lasting and true in colour. The globe Ink sticks made in local Hu Kaiwen Ink Workshop won a gold medal in Panama International Fair in 1915 and thereby became world famous.
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