Ancient stationary

It’s time for back to school, how are you prepared for it? One thing I have always loved about back to school is the potential awesome new stationaries I could add – there would be new pencils, pens, rulers, pencil sharpeners (I used to collect them), notebooks, papers to make new book covers, so many wonderful things! I sometimes linger around the stationary shop, just to see the new collections, try them out, and finally decide that I really have no need for a 10th eraser – but I’d return the next week anyway! In our previous posts you have seen the “four treasures of the scholar’s chamber”, the brush, ink, paper, and ink stone, and today let us expand our horizon and admire some ancient stationaries together, and see if you can recognise them!

Brush, Qing Dynasty, Forbidden City Museum
Ink, Ming Dynasty, Forbidden City Museum
Paper, Yuan Dynasty, Forbidden City Museum
Ink stone, Han Dynasty, Forbidden City Museum

The collection above shows antiques from various ancient Dynasties, some dating back over 2,000 years. They are the most important classic stationaries in the oriental study. I do not know about you, but if I were to acquire something this beautiful, I may never use them, do you think it is why they lasted until today?

Ok, those items above are easy, I bet you know almost immediately what they do. How about levelling up a bit? Do you know what this item below is without looking at the caption?

Brush holder, Qing Dynasty, Forbidden City Museum

I guess this was not that hard either, it is used for resting brushes, a brush holder. Now, increasing the difficulty! I am not adding a caption to the one below, but if you think it is a brush container, then you are wrong. Think again!

In fact the above item is a book holder. Indeed, it is used for holding scrolls of books, but similar containers could also be used to hold brushes, so you are probably not that wrong anyway! Now, let us try again, what is the one below? This one was made of jade.

The answer is, a paper weight! The most common shapes of paper weight is rectangular, but I do like these amazing paper weights, imagine holding them in your hands when moving them around on your paper! Let me show you one that I find rather exquisite, can you guess what it does?

The above item is called an ink bed. Probably though it was for holding pots of flowers? In fact after using ink sticks to grind ink, it remains moist, and we should never leave it on the ink stone, so we need a nice place to keep the still moist ink, and voilà, there is an elegant solution! How are you doing with these stationaries? How about we try a last kind? For this kind I will give you two photos, but they are used for the same purpose. Try to guess what they do, ready?

What do you believe these stationaries are used for? Look forward to hearing your thoughts!

Our Stationary Collection

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