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Black lacquer box with set of 12 ink cakes (detail)

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Black lacquer box with set of 12 ink cakes (detail)
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Chinese scholars considered paper, brush, ink, and ink stone as the Four Treasures of a scholar's study. The Four Treasures could also be found in the Manchu ruler's studio.

Illustrated here are two pieces of ink cakes. Chinese ink is a carbon black pigment produced from soot which is bound with animal glue and moulded in cake from. It is used for painting and writing.

The Chinese aesthetic idea of "ink-play" is to use ink in such a free manner that variations in ink tones will bring "the five colours".

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