Some Typical Ink Sticks
Complied and written by ©Claes G Lindblad on December 21, 1996.
|If you find these characters on top of a Chinese ink stick, it means
that the soot for it came from burning twigs or roots from a pine tree.
The top character means 'pine'. The one in the middle means 'soot' or 'smoke'. The last one (which is not always present) means 'ink' or 'black'.
Pine soot ink looks very black to our Western eyes. It has a blue-black hue and yields dead-matt writing on Western papers.
Apart from looking for these characters, there is a good way to decide if an ink stick is made from pine soot by observing its bottom part (the one which you grind) when it is dry. If it looks matte and dull, you most certainly have an ink stick made from pine.
|A Chinese ink stick with these characters on the top indicates a stick
where the soot has been obtained by burning vegetable oil.
The top character means 'vegetable oil'. The one in the middle means 'soot' or 'smoke'. The last one (which is not always present) means 'ink' or 'black'.
Vegetable oil soot ink is a bit shiny and has a brown-black hue.
When studying its bottom part (the one which you grind) when it is dry, you will find it glossy and smooth.
|Yellow Mountain Pine Soot
This is a very common Chinese Ink Stick, made from pine soot. By now you recognize the third and fourth characters from the top, right? The top character means 'yellow' and the next one means 'mountain'.
The ink obtained from it is somewhat gritty, but it is a pleasant grittiness and the ink behaves quite nicely in broad Western pens.
This Chinese Ink Stick is relatively cheap and seems to be the one which is the most easy to find in Europe. It is also known as 'Thousand Autumns Light', which can be seen from its face.
This design has been used for several hundred years. The stick is composed of vegetable oil soot.
On top, the characters for 'select soot' can be found, which indicates that it is of middle quality.
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