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Four Treasures of the Study

Four Treasures of the Study
4 trésors du lettre.jpg
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Korean name
Hangul 문방사우
Hanja 文房四友
Japanese name
Four Treasures of the Study
Hàn-jī 紙墨筆硯
Pe̍h-ōe-jī Choá-ba̍k-pit-hīⁿ

Four Treasures of the Study, Four Jewels of the Study or Four Friends of the Study is an expression used to denote the brush, ink, paper and ink stone used in Chinese and other East Asian calligraphic traditions. The name appears to originate in the time of the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589 AD).

Chinese culture is very fond of four word couplets, and the Four Treasures is another example: "文房四寶: 筆、墨、紙、硯," (Pinyin: wén fáng sì bǎo: bǐ, mò, zhǐ, yàn) "The four jewels of the study: Brush, Ink, Paper, Inkstone." In the couplet mentioned, each of the Treasures is referred to by a single epithet; however, each of these are usually known by a compound name (i.e. The Brush: 毛筆, literally "hair brush/pen). The individual treasures have a "treasured" form, each being produced in certain areas of China as a speciality for those scholars who would use them.

The brush (simplified Chinese: 毛笔; traditional Chinese: 毛筆; pinyin: máo bǐ) is the oldest Four Treasures member, with archaeological evidence dating to Zhou dynasty (1045 BC–256 BC) illustrations on ancient bones. The oldest brush so far dates to Han dynasty (202 BC–220 AD). Brushes are generally made from animal hair, or —in certain situations—the first hair taken from a baby's head (said to bring good luck in the Imperial examinations). Brush handles are commonly constructed from bamboo, but special brushes may have handles of sandalwood, jade, carved bone/ivory, or other precious materials.



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