The ‘four treasures of the study’ (文房四寶, pronounced wén fáng sì bǎo) is a Chinese expression used to refer to the brush, ink-stick, ink-stone and paper. The study is the study room of the scholar. The Chinese ink-stick is made of soot and glue and is ground against the ink-stone with water to make fresh ink.
In this blog post I will not go into the details of each one of the treasures of the study. The objective is to point out how important the choice of pen, ink and paper are and how much attention should be paid to them. The tools shape the letters. If you want to improve your handwriting, start by studying the tools. By exploring them you will decide which are the appropriate ‘treasures’ for your work. The tools also interact with each other. A certain ink might bleed through one kind of paper but not another. But this same ink might not bleed through the first paper if it is used with a ‘dry’ writing pen. It is the combinations of the tools that gives a specific look to your handwriting.
The importance of the tools can not be overrated, therefore we can consider them as treasures. In connection to this, master Johnston packed a lot of ideas in these few words:
‘Study and practise the making of beautiful THINGS and thereby gain experience of Tools, Materials and Methods.’(Writing, & Illuminating & Lettering, spelling and formatting in the original).