The “writing” of Chinese characters first requires a medium. As today’s writings are mostly on paper, one may wonder: What came before that?
In the Shang Dynasty, characters were carved on oracle bones or bronze wares. The Spring and Autumn Period was a time when the amount of writings and characters increased in great number. Hence new mediums emerged. Before paper was invented, bamboo and wood slips were important writing mediums while silk was used by aristocrats for writing.
Knives were first used as carving tools in the early phases of Chinese script. With the emergence of other specialized tools like brushes, knives began to serve as ‘*erasers” to scratch off writing mistakes.
Among the various calligraphic t~:ds, the writing brush is special to China. It represents one of the four treasures of the study, which also include paper, ink and ink stone. A writing brush comprises two parts: the head and shaft. The head is made of goat, wolf, rat or rabbit hair, which is softer than a quill pencil, or ballpoint pen. The shaft can be made of bamboo, wood and porcelain, as well as some precious materials such as ivory and jade. “Four treasures of the study” are the key instruments for writing Chinese characters. When the inkstone is filled with water, it [s used as a base to grind solid ink sticks into liquid ink. lnkstones are usually made of stone or bricks. As the brush hair is made of soft animal fur, this instrument is very flexible and adaptive in writing.
The Chinese writing brush boasts a long history. According to the Records of the History, the brush was invented by Meng Tian (? –210 B. C. ), a general under the First Emperor of the Qin Dynasty, using rabbit hair. Therefore. Meng Tian has been regarded as the father of the writing brush. However. primitive painted pottery unearthed in Yangshao, Henan Province contains decorative designs painted by tools resembling a brush. Clearly visible stains or brush marks remain in certain places on the pottery. This evidence suggests that the brash may have predated written language.
Brushes became the major writing instrument of Chinese characters in the Spring and Autumn period. Among the cultural relics unearthed in Zuojiagong Mountain of Changsha, Hunan Province in 1964 were different kinds of ancient writing brushes and relics related to writing, This is the first time that our imagination of the writing brushes before the Han Dynasty got proved.