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She Ink Stone Making

She Ink Stone Making

She ink stone, one of the four most famous kinds of ink stone in China, is so-called because it was mainly produced in the She County of ancient Huizhou. The ink stone produced in Wuyuan County, Jiangxi Province was also called She ink stone because that area was once under the jurisdiction of ancient Huizhou. She ink stones first appeared during the Han and Jin Dynasties and became famous during the Tang Dynasty. Since the development of the She ink stones at Longwei in Wuyuan County, during the Kaiyuan periods of Tang Dynasty, they have been treasured throughout the country. Liyu, the last emperor of Later Tang Dynasty (923-936), set up a special office responsible for supervising ink stone making in She County and designated a craftsman named Li Shaowei to head the office. Since then, the social status of She ink stone has steadily increased. The trade developed rapidly during the Song Dynasty, and it became the best of all ink stones made in the country, due to its great variety, refined texture, and delicate carving. The handicraft underwent a decline during the Late Yuan and Qing Dynasties. After the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949, ink stone production revived and new kinds were invented. After China adopted the Opening Up and Reform Policy in 1978, She County and Wuyuan County set up a factory to process She ink stones, as one of the Four Treasures of Study (brush, ink stick, ink stone and paper). The process includes selecting the best material from gray, green and rare black slates mined in the area, which have unique markings. The final shape for the stone is designed and formed, a motif drawn and carved, with regard to the unique qualities of each individual stone, then the stone is polished and decorated, and placed in a box which is in itself often of high value. In the 1980s some additional slates have been selected for processing, still from the same area. The designs highlight the natural aesthetic values of the stones and today She ink stones are ranked at the top of nationwide ink stone production. They have been named “Treasure of County” and have won the National Top Quality Product and Export Award.

At the core of the production of She ink stones is the carving, and the natural texture of the stone, which is divided into five categories that further branch into over 100 categories.

Today the supply of suitable raw materials for ink stones are diminishing, and fewer people are willing to continue in the craft, so it will depend on protection and public support if the trade is to survive.