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Chinese Ink Stones

In traditional Chinese culture, the art of writing is essential to education and scholarly success. Exemplary of this reverence toward calligraphy is the reference to the creation of brushes, ink, ink stones, and paper as the “four treasures of the study” in literature dating back to 420 A.D. Ink stones in particular were considered the most important and even the very soul of a scholar.

Ink stones, originally created in the Han dynasty, emerged with the creation of ink sticks. Chinese paintings and calligraphy, either on paper or silk, are generally produced with a water-based ink created from grinding the ink with a stone and water. Ink stones are usually made of fine-grained whetstone like slate, but can also be created out of ceramic and other coarse materials. During the Tang and Song dynasties, the ink stone became more than just a utilitarian object – it was an important work of art.

Ink stones are decorated with images of scholars or references to famous literary works in order to inspire intellectuals. They are revered for the manner in which the stone collaborates with the ink-stick and water to create the perfect ink texture.


Quick Facts

  • In order to produce a consistent ink, the ink stone must consist of fine grains to grind the ink stick into finer particles. The best ink stones are made out of older geological formations due to the finer crystals
  • The perfect ink stone is also consistent in the direction of the grain and not highly absorbent. A lower quality ink stone, when wet, will dry out quickly and in patches
  • Duan and She ink stones are the most famous for their high quality and fine grain. Both were mined historically during the Tang and Song dynasties, and were so valuable that some miners believed to have been forced to work naked so that they could not steal any of the stone

Recommended Items at Auction

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A Silver Enameled Ink Pad
Dec 08, 6:00 PM CST
A Silver Enameled Ink Pad
by Mei Auctions
Est: $400- $600
$2000 Bids
A Set of Eight 'Figural' Inks
Dec 08, 6:00 PM CST
A Set of Eight 'Figural' Inks
by Mei Auctions
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
An Imperial Chinese Dragon Inkcake with Cheng Junfang Mark Qing Dynasty
Nov 30, 10:00 AM SGT
An Imperial Chinese Dragon Inkcake with Cheng Junfang Mark Qing Dynasty
by SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL AUCTION PTE LTD.
Est: $800- $1,500
$8000 Bids
LARGE 'CLOUD' INK STONE
Dec 03, 3:00 PM PST
LARGE 'CLOUD' INK STONE
by Mega International Auction
Est: $200- $400
$1000 Bids
DUAN STONE INKWELL
Dec 03, 3:00 PM PST
DUAN STONE INKWELL
by Mega International Auction
Est: $300- $500
$2000 Bids
DUAN STONE RELIEF CARVED 'LANDSCAPE SCENERY' INK STONE
Dec 03, 3:00 PM PST
DUAN STONE RELIEF CARVED 'LANDSCAPE SCENERY' INK STONE
by Mega International Auction
Est: $1,000- $1,500
$6000 Bids
AN INK STONE IN THE FORM OF A WATER DROPPER CARVED WITH FLORAL DECORATION
Dec 07, 9:30 AM CET
AN INK STONE IN THE FORM OF A WATER DROPPER CARVED WITH FLORAL DECORATION
by Nagel Auction
Est: €200- €300
€2000 Bids
A Chinese carved stone inkstone box, 19th century
Dec 04, 9:00 AM EST
A Chinese carved stone inkstone box, 19th century
by Oakridge Auction Gallery
Est: $100- $200
$1000 Bids
CHINESE INK STONE PAD
Nov 30, 11:30 AM EST
CHINESE INK STONE PAD
by Latair Auctions
Est: $600- $900
$1000 Bids
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A SET OF 10 DRUM-SHAPED INK CAKES, WITH LACQUARED BOX
Dec 03, 2:00 PM PST
A SET OF 10 DRUM-SHAPED INK CAKES, WITH LACQUARED BOX
by Linwoods Auction
Est: $3,000- $4,000
$1,0000 Bids
Chinese Blue White Porcelain Ink Stone
Dec 02, 9:00 AM EST
Chinese Blue White Porcelain Ink Stone
by Ander's Auction
Est: $800- $1,000
$2000 Bids
Chinese Songhua Scholar Ink Stone
Dec 02, 9:00 AM EST
Chinese Songhua Scholar Ink Stone
by Ander's Auction
Est: $2,500- $3,000
$5000 Bids
Chinese Stone Ink Slab
Dec 03, 12:00 PM PST
Chinese Stone Ink Slab
by Jumbo Auction House
Est: $1,500- $2,800
$2000 Bids
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DUAN STONE CARVED RUYI PATTERN INKSTONE
Nov 29, 11:00 AM EST
DUAN STONE CARVED RUYI PATTERN INKSTONE
by Empire Auction House
Est: $300- $500
$2000 Bids
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DUAN STONE CARVED INKSTONE
Nov 29, 11:00 AM EST
DUAN STONE CARVED INKSTONE
by Empire Auction House
Est: $300- $500
$2000 Bids
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CAO XIUXIAN MARK DUAN STONE CARVED INKSTONE
Nov 29, 11:00 AM EST
CAO XIUXIAN MARK DUAN STONE CARVED INKSTONE
by Empire Auction House
Est: $300- $500
$2000 Bids
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WULI MARK INKSTONE
Nov 29, 11:00 AM EST
WULI MARK INKSTONE
by Empire Auction House
Est: $300- $500
$2000 Bids
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DUAN STONE CARVED AUSPICIOUS PATTERN INKSTONE
Nov 29, 11:00 AM EST
DUAN STONE CARVED AUSPICIOUS PATTERN INKSTONE
by Empire Auction House
Est: $300- $500
$2000 Bids
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WU RUNYANG PURPLE ROBE JADE CARVED INKSTONE
Nov 29, 11:00 AM EST
WU RUNYANG PURPLE ROBE JADE CARVED INKSTONE
by Empire Auction House
Est: $300- $500
$2000 Bids
A Chinese Inkstone Qing Dynasty
Nov 30, 10:00 AM SGT
A Chinese Inkstone Qing Dynasty
by SINGAPORE INTERNATIONAL AUCTION PTE LTD.
Est: $300- $500
$3000 Bids
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ZHU JUN MARK DUAN STONE CARVED INKSTONE
Nov 29, 11:00 AM EST
ZHU JUN MARK DUAN STONE CARVED INKSTONE
by Empire Auction House
Est: $600- $800
$4000 Bids
A jade ink set decorated with Chinese characters and dragons. China, 20th century.
Dec 13, 6:30 PM CET
A jade ink set decorated with Chinese characters and dragons. China, 20th century.
by Medusa Auctioneers
Est: €80- €120
€800 Bids
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OCTAGON SHAPED INKSTONE
Nov 29, 11:00 AM EST
OCTAGON SHAPED INKSTONE
by Empire Auction House
Est: $300- $500
$2000 Bids
A CHINESE GOLD PAINTED DRAGON INK CAKE
Dec 04, 9:30 AM EST
A CHINESE GOLD PAINTED DRAGON INK CAKE
by Berkeley Auction Gallery
Est: $600- $900
$1000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Ink Stones


Empire Auction House

Empire Auction House

Merces Gallery LLC

Merces Gallery LLC

Bonhams

Bonhams

Jade Auction House

Jade Auction House