An inkstone is an essential tool in both Chinese style calligraphy and painting. But, while they’re still being made by hand in the same way they have for hundreds of years, they are becoming less common.

inkstones initial shaping
[from the internet]
[from the internet]
inkstones in boxes
[from the internet]

Old inkstones are now collectors items and showcased in museums while student quality stones are today mass produced and readily available in art supply stores.

Inkstone Turtle MET
[Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY]
inkstone ming
[Ming dynasty, from the internet]

Stones are collected for their own beauty and may never have been intended for use. They can also be appreciated for the tone they make when struck, for the quarry from which they came, or for their association with the famous people who once owned them.

[from the internet]
[from the internet]
[from the internet]

Modern stones in contemporary styles or in imitation of ancient designs often come with hardwood cases and highlight the decorative qualities of the stone. The images below are all pulled from the internet.

There’s an excellent book on the subject by Dorothy Ko titled “The Social Life of Instones: Artisans and Scholars in Early Qing China.” Seattle: The University of Washington Press, 2020.

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