Four Elements & Tools For Chinese Calligraphy

The art of Chinese calligraphy reaches back thousands of years, and the beauty of these complicated characters makes it unique and intriguing for artists anywhere on the globe. That's one reason why we love exploring more about these products.

Traditionally, the four main tools for writing and drawing in this style are called the Four Treasures of the Study: these are brushes, ink, paper, and ink stone.

Here's a quick overview of both these tools, and some of the other most important tools that calligraphers use to write and draw in this style.

Ink Brush


The brushes used in Chinese calligraphy, considered by experts as merely a lengthening extension of your arm, are most often made from wood or bamboo. In some cases, they are made from materials like porcelain. The end of the brush is almost always made from animal hair like weasel, wolf, bear, or rabbit. In modern times, calligraphy can also be done by using a pen although this is considered less authentic.


Four Elements & Tools For Chinese Calligraphy

Although any good-quality paper can be used for writing Chinese calligraphy, enthusiasts use traditional papers from China like xuan paper or lianshi paper. Within China, xuan paper is most commonly used. This paper is made from materials like rice, hemp, and bamboo. Practice paper is also available, which comes with light grids to enable you to perfect your character forms.



The ink used in Chinese calligraphy is made from soot (also called lampblack in English). It is essentially a dense black charcoal which is dissolved with water on an ink stone. While you can also use pre-constituted inks which come in bottles, inks made by grinding sticks with water on inkstones are considered higher quality, and last longer. In traditional Chinese writing and drawing, black ink is the sole color used. Today it has become more popular to use red inks, which offer a stunning contrast to the white of the page.

The ink sticks are designed with beautiful art, making them prized pieces to display on your desk themselves!



The inkstone is a work of art in itself, with many coming in beautifully carved shapes and sizes, made from materials ranging from stone to porcelain. Writers use this stone to grind the ink stick together with water, and use it as a holding basin once ground.

In addition to these four "Treasures of the Study", there are other items that are considered essential to the art of calligraphy. Other tools include pen holders, water droppers, desk pads, paperweights, and practice scrolls. An essential for beginners is the water practice scroll, which enables new writers to perfect the forms of their characters by writing with water instead of ink...preserving precious paper and ink! Pen holders and paperweights are works of art much like the inkstone, with ornate designs in all sorts of materials from wood to stone.

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