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Chinese Writing Brushes

Writing brushes are made of animal hair and there are many kinds with different functions.

Chinese writing brushes are usually categorized according to various grades of flexibility or stiffness. Brushes made of rabbit, deer, weasel and rat hair are stiff, and those made of goat hair and chicken feathers look more flexible. If one wants a brush neither too flexible nor too stiff, the best choice is one made from a mixture of rabbit and goat hair, or a mixture of goat and weasel hair. There are three combinations: 70 percent rabbit hair and 30 percent goat hair, the same proportions in reverse, or equal proportion.

Generally speaking, people who are used to brushes with flexible features can write with facility using a stiff brush, while whose used to a stiff brush will find it hard to write freely by using one with flexible features for a change. For beginners to practice Chinese calligraphy, it is best to use brushes with flexible features or those neither too flexible nor too stiff. The weakness of the latter is that users cannot write regular script of large characters, let alone copy models of calligraphy by Yan Zhenqing, a celebrated Tang Dynasty calligrapher.

Good-quality brushes, as noted earlier, should be sharp-pointed, smoothly round, neatly cut and stiff at the tip. More specifically, the brushes are more like tender bamboo shoots when,having absorbed enough ink; the tip is very neat when being twisted by the fingers; the hair won't bend to the shaft, but naturally falls down when the wet tip goes around a thumb several times. Usually, the longer the tip of a brush, the more elastic strength it possesses. It does not mean the longer the tip of a brush, the more elastic strength it possesses. It does not mean the longer the hair of a brush, the better it is. When a brush shows a long and semi-transparent tip in the sunshine, it can be considered as being of good quality.

The forgoing consideration may assist people to choose writing brushes and write or draw with facility.

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