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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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Chinese cartouche shaped Dragon themed ink stone with inscriptions (L:14cm)
Mar 07, 1:00 PM AEDT
Chinese cartouche shaped Dragon themed ink stone with inscriptions (L:14cm)
by Lawsons
Est: AUD60- AUD80
AUD254 Bids
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A FINELY CARVED CINNABAR MADE CALLIGRAPHY INK
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
A FINELY CARVED CINNABAR MADE CALLIGRAPHY INK
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Est: $120- $180
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A CHINESE FINE CARVED AND INSCRIBED JADE INKSTONE
Mar 03, 9:30 AM EST
A CHINESE FINE CARVED AND INSCRIBED JADE INKSTONE
by Berkeley Auction Gallery
Est: $2,000- $3,000
$3001 Bid
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A FINE SANDALWOOD CARVED DRAGON PATTERN INK BED
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
A FINE SANDALWOOD CARVED DRAGON PATTERN INK BED
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $60- $90
$301 Bid
LARGE DUAN INK STONE PRODUCED BY THE WELL KNOWN INKSTONE ARTISAN MUO YONGZHONG IN ZHAOQING
Mar 09, 11:00 AM EST
LARGE DUAN INK STONE PRODUCED BY THE WELL KNOWN INKSTONE ARTISAN MUO YONGZHONG IN ZHAOQING
by Metropolitan Auction of Art Inc.
Est: $45,000- $65,000
$19,0001 Bid
A Vintage Chinese Sumi Ink Stick with Dragon & Gilt Detail
Mar 17, 11:00 AM AEDT
A Vintage Chinese Sumi Ink Stick with Dragon & Gilt Detail
by Theodore Bruce Auctioneers & Valuers
Est: AUD80- AUD120
AUD401 Bid
QING DYNASTY. FAMOUS BAMBOO CARVED ANCIENT FLOWER PATTERN INK BED
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
QING DYNASTY. FAMOUS BAMBOO CARVED ANCIENT FLOWER PATTERN INK BED
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Est: $1,200- $1,700
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A CHINESE CARVED WHITE JADE INKWELL WITH COVER
Mar 03, 9:30 AM EST
A CHINESE CARVED WHITE JADE INKWELL WITH COVER
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Est: $3,000- $4,000
$6000 Bids
QING DYNASTY INK PAINTED PLUM VASE WITH DRAGON PATTERN
Mar 09, 3:00 PM PST
QING DYNASTY INK PAINTED PLUM VASE WITH DRAGON PATTERN
by Mega International Auction
Est: $3,000- $4,000
$2,3000 Bids
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A FINE ROSEWOOD MADE INK BED
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
A FINE ROSEWOOD MADE INK BED
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $200- $300
$1000 Bids
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SANDALWOOD CARVED INKSTONE WITH LANDSCAPE AND PAVILION PATTERNS
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
SANDALWOOD CARVED INKSTONE WITH LANDSCAPE AND PAVILION PATTERNS
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $100- $150
$500 Bids
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A FINE LOTUS CARVING STONE INK
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
A FINE LOTUS CARVING STONE INK
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $120- $180
$600 Bids
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A FINE BAMBOO CARVING STONE INKSTONE
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
A FINE BAMBOO CARVING STONE INKSTONE
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $120- $180
$600 Bids
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A FINELY CARVED CINNABAR MADE CALLIGRAPHY INK
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
A FINELY CARVED CINNABAR MADE CALLIGRAPHY INK
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $120- $180
$600 Bids
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A FINELY CARVED CINNABAR MADE CALLIGRAPHY INK
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
A FINELY CARVED CINNABAR MADE CALLIGRAPHY INK
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $120- $180
$600 Bids
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A FINE ROSEWOOD PEARL INLAID INK BED
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
A FINE ROSEWOOD PEARL INLAID INK BED
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $120- $180
$600 Bids
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OLD ROSEWOOD CARVED INKSTONE WITH FISH PATTERN
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
OLD ROSEWOOD CARVED INKSTONE WITH FISH PATTERN
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $100- $150
$500 Bids
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OLD ROSEWOOD CARVED INKSTONE WITH FLORAL PATTERN
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
OLD ROSEWOOD CARVED INKSTONE WITH FLORAL PATTERN
by William's Auctions, LLC
Est: $100- $150
$500 Bids
A SET OF THREE LITERATI ITEMS
Mar 03, 9:30 AM EST
A SET OF THREE LITERATI ITEMS
by Berkeley Auction Gallery
Est: $3,000- $4,000
$6000 Bids
AN INKSTONE WITH BOX AND "THIRD YEAR OF GUANGXU (FENG YANDENMING)" MARKING
Mar 23, 3:00 PM PDT
AN INKSTONE WITH BOX AND "THIRD YEAR OF GUANGXU (FENG YANDENMING)" MARKING
by Mega International Auction
Est: $800- $1,000
$5000 Bids
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LACQUERWARE GOLD-PAINTED GOURD-SHAPED INKSTONE
Mar 03, 11:00 AM EST
LACQUERWARE GOLD-PAINTED GOURD-SHAPED INKSTONE
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$800 Bids
太平有象藏宝瓶端石砚 An Unusual Carved and Inscribed Inkstone
Mar 23, 10:00 AM EDT
太平有象藏宝瓶端石砚 An Unusual Carved and Inscribed Inkstone
by Gianguan Auctions
Est: $1,500- $2,000
$3000 Bids
随形龙云池纹红丝砚 Red Silk Thread Inkstone Carved with Dragon amidst Cloud
Mar 23, 10:00 AM EDT
随形龙云池纹红丝砚 Red Silk Thread Inkstone Carved with Dragon amidst Cloud
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Est: $1,000- $1,500
$2500 Bids
雕云龙带眼端石砚 An Exceptional Duan Inkstone carved with Dragons and 'Eyes'
Mar 23, 10:00 AM EDT
雕云龙带眼端石砚 An Exceptional Duan Inkstone carved with Dragons and 'Eyes'
by Gianguan Auctions
Est: $3,000- $4,000
$8000 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Chinese Ink Stones


Merces Gallery LLC

Merces Gallery LLC

Jade Auction House

Jade Auction House

William's Auctions, LLC

William's Auctions, LLC

Gianguan Auctions

Gianguan Auctions