Ink brush is used in Chinese calligraphy - the art of writing in the countries of the Chinese cultural sphere: Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, and Japan. It is believed that ink brushes were invented in China around 300 BC because the earliest intact ink brush was found in 1954 in the tomb of a Chu citizen during the Warring States period, which lasted from 475 to 221 BC. The brush in the tomb is very simple and has a wooden stalk to which a bamboo tube secures the hair bundle.
Ink brushes are still made today, and Japanese companies like Pentel and Sakura are only two of many that manufacture them still. Brushes are different in size and purpose. Stalks of ink brushes can be made of normal bamboo, while more exotic stalks for brushes are made of gold, silver, jade, ivory, red sandalwood, or spotted bamboo.
Hair for ink brushes again has two classes: normal and exotic. Normal hair for brushes is made of goats, Siberian weasels, pigs, mice, buffalo, wolves, and rabbits. In contrast, exotic hair is made of the hair of tigers, fowl, deer, and even humans (the Chinese believed that an ink brush made from the baby's hair when it got the first haircut would bring luck on the Imperial examinations). The hair of the brush can also be soft, mixed, or hard, and different styles use brushes of different hardness. Ink brushes also have hair of big, short, or medium size. Medium brushes are the most commonly used, while small ones are used for seals and big ones for large works. Synthetic is never used for ink brushes, and prices vary from less than one dollar for simple ones to a few thousand for exotic variants. The finest brushes are made in the town of Shanlian, in the Huzhou, Zhejiang province district.
Chinese calligraphy developed in China and spread from there. It is considered a skill, an art, and part of the imperial examination. Its roots can be traced to the 4000 BC signs, but no paper with calligraphy still exists for obvious reasons. In time different styles of symbols developed and, with them, rules of calligraphy. The ink brush, ink, paper, and inkstone are essential tools of Chinese calligraphy and were considered “Four Treasures of the Study.” The paper used for calligraphy in China is Xuanzhi or Xuan paper - made from the elm tree, rice, paper mulberry, bamboo, and hemp. It has great tensile strength and a smooth surface and can survive creases, corrosion, moth, and mold. Ink is made from inksticks which are in turn made from soot. Inkstick is rubbed against an inkstone holding a small amount of water, slowly turning into ink from particles that fall off the inkstick. Other tools used for calligraphy are a paperweight that holds the paper flat, a desk pad (a pad made of felt) on which the paper is placed, a water-dropper that holds a small amount of water for an inkstone, brush-washers for removing excess ink, and brush-rest for placing a brush when it’s not in use.
To be considered good, calligraphic work must follow some rules. The first rule is that characters must be written correctly. Legitimate calligraphers approve correct versions. The second rule says that characters must be legible, i.e., symbols must be readable to those familiar with the script style. The third rule is that the characters must be concise and without flourish and written in black ink. The fourth rule is that the characters must fit their context, i.e., their weight must suit what they describe. The fifth and last rule says that characters must be aesthetically pleasing.