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Xang Xi Zhi Wang Xizhi 

Chinese Culture >> Chinese Art

Make Your Own Calligraphy Ink

Japanese and Chinese Calligraphy is more than simply putting characters on a piece of paper. It's an entire artistic lifestyle and can form a part of a meditative state through the entire process from idea to realized creation. The Japanese calligraphy brush is a specialist tool for creating calligraphy of the traditional style, but you might also like to use the traditional Japanese calligraphy ink too.

Part of this process includes the creation of the ink used in the work. Traditionally, calligraphy ink comes in a solid ink stick, known as Sumi ink. The calligrapher grinds it on a suzuri, or slate ink stone, mixed with water to form the ink. It is acknowledged that bottled ink is an inferior product to the ink stick and calligraphers planning serious work will always prefer to make their own.

Sumi ink is made from a compressed mixture of soot, water and glue the sticks themselves are highly decorated and, to look at them, could be considered works of art in themselves. There are 2 types of ink: yuen-boku which is a black ink made from lamp soot, and; Shoen-boku which is a slightly bluish ink made from pine soot.

To make ink pour a little water on the surface of the suzuri and then you begin describing small circles on the stone with the ink stick all the while using light pressure and ensuring that the stick is held upright. The grinding continues until the ink becomes blacker and thicker at which time you might add some more water if necessary and continue grinding. The amount of water you use is dependent on the amount of ink you think you will need to finish your calligraphy work.

You are looking for the ink to become thick and a deep black color. To determine whether the ink has reached the right consistency you are looking for oily trails to form on the ink stone. Listen to the grinding noise of the ink stick on the surface of the suzuri, the grinding will become muffled and softer which will tell you that you have made ink that will be ready to begin your calligraphy work.

There are other ways of determining whether the ink you've made is of a workable consistency. Taking a drop of ink and placing it on the rim of a saucer and watching how quickly it runs down the side will also indicate the correct thickness.

The more often you make your own ink, the easier it will become and you will get a feel for whether it has been done correctly or not. Making calligraphy ink is an art-form in itself and it will take a few trials before the desired color and consistency is created. 

About the Author

There are many aspects about calligraphy and the use of the calligraphy pen to learn


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