Chapter IV The Ink Stone
Section I   An Overview of the Ink Stone
 
The ink stone (in Chinese that reads yàn) is the last item of the four treasures. It is something you grind the ink stick in, most of them are made of stone, but not always. They should have been called ink grinder/holder since some of them are jade, metal, porcelain and even lacqure. Archeological findings show the earliest Yan occurred more than 5,000 years ago. In the Han Dynasty, people grinded ink stick on stone slices or tiles, which were made for purpose of grinding. Porcelain ink holder appeared after Jin Dynasty. The well known “Four Great Yan” came into being in the Tang Dynasty, “Duan Yan” (  in Chinese that reads dun yàn) ruled in the Song Dynasty and collection of famous Yan started from the Ming Dynasty.
 
Section II The Four Great Yan
 
1.   Duan Yan: made of Duanxi Stone at Yaocian County of Guangdong province since the Tang Dynasty. Used to be tribute to    to the imperial court. It is of  fine quality has unique veins and no sound is produced in grinding. What is special is that each piece has an eye,which may resemble the eyes of a parrot, a doy, a cat or a duck. The picture on the left is a Duan Yan of Tang Dynasty.

 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
2.   She Yan: in Chinese that reads shè yàn, which was produced at Wuyuan County of She Prefecture of Jiangxi Province in the Tang Dynasty. The stone is as hard as jade and the ink it produces is greasy. The picture below is a sample of She Yan.
 
 
3.   Qingzhou Yan: in ChineseThat reads qng zhu yàn, which was produced at Linqu County of Shandong Province. It is also called Red Vein ink holder because of its
texture. The picture below is a product of Qing Dynasty.
 
 
 
 
4. Tiao Yan: in Chinese that reads tiáo yàn,  produced at the east bank of Tiaohe River of Gansu Province. There were green ones and red ones. Collectors always prepare a casing for their ink stone, which is washed after using. When grinding in the ink stone, one end of the stick should be flat without any protruding parts that would leave traces on the surface of the ink stone, or the ink stick should not be too hard. One should not use metal or glass wares over the ink stone

A sample of Tiao Yan

 

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