The inkstone is another one of the calligrapher’s materials. Made of natural stone, it has a flat part and a hollow part that the Chinese call a “well”. To prepare the ink, a few drops of water are poured on the flat part and, with the inkstick held vertically, a circular movement is made on the stone to gradually dilute the ink until a smooth paste is obtained, which goes into the well. The stone is then used as an inkpot, a tool to remove excess ink and smooth the tip of the brush.
A good inkstone must be fine, smooth, soft to the touch, dense and impermeable to water. Very plain or highly ornamented, of varying sizes, shapes and colours, they can be genuine works of art that appeal to collectors as well. The best inkstones come from Duan, a region in southern China; their reputation is due to the quality of the stone used. The price range is very wide, and it is hard to assess the quality of a stone without considerable experience.
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