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Ink Slab Or Ink Stone

When the ink slab was invented is a rather controversial question. Ancient Chinese attributed the invention to the Yellow Emperor, yet the ink slab had been in use in primitive times, six to seven thousand years ago, two thousand years earlier than the era of the Yellow Emperor, to produce colors. Archaeologists have discovered many ancient ink slabs, such as a jade ink slab of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, a stone slab of the pre-Qin Dynasty, a painted slab and a painted slab mixed with sand belonging to the Han Dynasty, copper and silver slabs as well as iron slabs of the Wei and Jin dynasties, a blue porcelain slab of the Six Dynasties and a clay slab of the Tang Dynasty. Most ink slabs, modern or ancient, were made of stone. The earliest ink slab was made of stone and acquired the greatest popularity. Ink stones or ink slabs have been classified into three categories since the Tang Dynasty: Duan, She and Tao.

Duan Ink Slab

Produced in Zhaoqing, Guangdong Province, it is made of Duan stone, so named because the Duanxi River runs at the foot of Mount Fuke, where the stone is found. Said to be the best stone for making ink slabs, Duan stone was used to make ink slabs as early as the Tang Dynasty (618-907). Duan ink slabs have earned a high reputation among Chinese scholars ever since.

She Ink Slab

It is named after Shezhou Prefecture, Anhui Province, where it was first produced in the Tang Dynasty. Many counties under the jurisdiction of this prefecture produce She ink slabs, but the best come from Mount Longwei, Wuyuan County, Jiangxi Province. Sometimes She ink slabs are referred to as Longwei ink slabs.

Tao Ink Slab

This ink slab has been produced in Taozhou since ancient times. Now it is produced mainly in Taoyan Village, Zhuoni County, Gansu Province. Tao ink slabs are made of stone found at the Tao River; hence the name.

One feature common to all three kinds of ink slabs is that the stone is hard and fine. Though hard, the stone is not dry. Though fine, it is not slippery. With a hard, smooth stone you produce liquid ink easily by rubbing the ink stick against the stone. Since the stone is fine, but not slippery, it yields ink very quickly.

Any stone not too glossy or slippery or too coarse or rough may be used by the beginner. The slab may have a cover, since a covered slab stores ink more easily. The ink will not blow away or dry up.

In grinding the ink stick against the ink slab exert your force evenly, so as to keep the ink slab steady. Grind only the ink you need for writing. After use, the slab must be washed clean. Leave a bit of clean water in the center of the slab. This will keep the slab in good condition. Take care not to stain the slab with oil or grease.

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