Saturday, January 9, 2010

ink-stone and ink-stick

sometimes our memories of the past are triggered by places we visit or by things we see. they can also be triggered by things you come across in your reading. i was reading another book by adeline yen mah - author of falling leaves - in which she mentioned chinese calligraphy and the use of ink-stone and ink-stick.

this transported me back to those days when i had neighbours who attended chinese medium schools. in those days, chinese calligraphy was part of the curriculum, much unlike today, when it has become a co-curricular activity or part of something designated as an enrichment programme in some schools.

i remember the ink-stone was rectangular and had a small reservoir for water. to produce the ink for writing, you dipped the ink-stick in the water and ground or rubbed it, in a circular motion, on the ink-stone or ink-slab. the 'mau pi' (hair brush) had a handle made from bamboo and the brush was made from some animal hair, usually sheep hair.

my immediate neighbour had to write a few pages - i cannot remember how many - each school day. i would volunteer to help him write. you had to hold the brush straight and upright and your palm should not come into contact with the writing paper. i quite enjoyed the exercise because i treated i as a form of art, which it is.

according to my friend nah, who attended both chinese and english schools, at around that time, there was already chinese calligraphy ink that came in a bottle. the calligraphy writing book was double the size of the normal exercise book. the outline of the chinese characters were pre-printed and all you had to do was to follow the lines in the order stated.


peter said...

When I first learnt Chinese at the age of 6 at this clan association, I had to use a brush (white hair at the tip) and black ink. I had to follow the character outline like, 1. down stroke, 2. across, 3. Up stroke and so forth. I could not "suka suka" do as I like. The Chinese teacher could easily find out because there seems to be a certain technique which determines the eventual thickness of a stroke such as thick at the base/thin at the top or vice versa.

Soon I realised I could not make it in Chinese.

What confused me more was reading Chinese from the "back of the book to the front page", so different from reading English book.

Icemoon said...

Peter, you could have added the sentences were written on the page from top to bottom, haha.

kimology said...

My children went to a Chinese school where the ink came out of a bottle and it used to stink. Later they changed the content so that the smell was gone.
Then the kids found a short-cut: there was a prefilled brush, no need to dip any more! So happy and so sad.

peter said...

Handling a manuscript pen seems so much easir than a Chinese brush.

No wonder I read the Straits Times from back to front, i. e. sports page and then world politics. I shoudl have been confused but somehow I could still follow the article without much difficulty. Maybe this was due to study in a Chinese language environment. Old habits seldom die.

yg said...

kimology, when we used indian ink for our manuscript writing, there was also a certain smell but we all got used to it.

Mel Siebel said...

I remember using one of these in Kindergarten back in the late sixties. It was in Kuen Cheng Kinder in KL. Also, our teacher had us homework practice using a small slate black board at home.