Ink brush is a brush used in Chinese calligraphy - art of writing in the countries of Chinese cultural sphere: Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, China, and Japan. For now it is believed that ink brushes were invented in China somewhere around 300 BC because the earliest intact ink brush was found in 1954, in the tomb of a Chu citizen the Warring States period which lasted from 475 to 221 BC. Brush found in tomb is very simple and had a wooden stalk to which a bamboo tube secures the bundle of hair.
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 in 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 hair of goat, Siberian weasel, pig, mouse, buffalo, wolf and rabbit while exotic hair is made of hair of tiger, fowl, deer and even human (Chinese believed that an ink brush made from a hair of the baby when it got the first haircut would bring luck on the Imperial examinations). 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 are used for seals and big for large works. Synthetic is never used for ink brushes and prices of ink brushes vary from less than one dollar for simple ones to few thousands for exotic variants. The finest brushes are made in the town of Shanlian, in the district of Huzhou, Zhejiang province.
Chinese calligraphy developed in China and spread from there. It is considered a skill and an art and it was a part of imperial examination. Its roots can be traced to the 4000 BC signs but no paper with calligraphy survived to this day 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”. Paper used for calligraphy in China is Xuanzhi or Xuan paper - made from elm tree, rice, paper mulberry, bamboo and hemp. It has great tensile strength, and smooth surface, and can survive crease, corrosion, moth and mold. Ink is made from inksticks which are in turn made from soot. Inkstick is rubbed against an inkstone which holds a small amount of water which slowly turns into ink from particles that fall of the inkstick. Other tools used for calligraphy are paperweight that holds the paper flat, desk pad (a pad made of felt) on which the paper is placed, water-dropper which holds small amount of water for 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. First rule is that characters must be written correctly. Correct versions are approved by legitimate calligraphers. Second rule says that characters must be legible i.e. symbols must be readable at least to those familiar with the script style. Third rule is that the characters must be concise and without flourish and written in black ink. Fourth rule is that the characters must fit their context i.e. their weight must suit the thing they describe. The fifth and the last rule says that characters must be aesthetically pleasing.