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Inkstones in the Ming Dynasty

The Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) was governed by Han Chinese who valued the Central Plain culture. Therefore, inkstones from the Ming Dynasty were distinctive and of high quality. The majority of inkstones at the time were made of stones. One of the most popular styles was vintage biyong inkstones. They originated in the round-shaped and multi-legged inkstones popular in the Han Dynasty, Wei of Three Kingdoms, Jin Dynasty, and the Northern and Southern Dynasties. Biyong inkstones already made their appearance during the Tang Dynasty, but reached the peak of their popularity during the Ming Dynasty. Another popular style was handheld inkstones. They developed from the Tang and Song inkstones in the form of a clog and the Song handheld inkstones.

Apart from the differences in design, inkstones from the Ming Dynasty also had more decorations than those from the previous dynasties. Inkstones became artworks, not merely stationary aids. Thus, there were embosses and inscriptions on inkstones from the Ming Dynasty.

The porcelain inkstones from the Ming Dynasty were mostly blue-and-white pattern. It grew popular again because the people at that time discovered a new function of porcelain inkstones. The administrative and educational documents were marked in red ink, which was made from the grinding of cinnabar (HgO) into red ink. If people used the grey or black inkstones, the color would not match well with the red ink. On the contrary, if they used the blue-and-white porcelain inkstones, the redness would appear sharper. The blue-and-white porcelain inkstones were mostly drum-shaped with patterns and inscriptions on the sides or at the back.

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