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Chinese Calligraphy Brush

The most important tool in Chinese calligraphy is the ink brush. The simplified Chinese character for ink brush is 毛笔. These brushes are also used in Chinese painting and the descendant brush painting style shui-mo hua, 水墨畫.

The two main parts of a calligraphy brush are the body and the brush head. The most common material used to make the body is bamboo. More exotic bodies are made from mottled bamboo, ivory, jade, red sandalwood, silver, and gold. The brush head is made from animal hair or fine bird feathers. Common brushes are made from hair from buffalo, mouse, pig, rabbit, sheep, weasel, and wolf.  More expensive brushes are made from deer, fowl, tiger, and yellow weasel.
Chinese Calligraphy Brush
Even baby hair is used. Hair form a baby’s first haircut made into a brush is said to bring good fortune and makes a wonderful family heirloom. The finest brushes in the world are made in the town of Shanlin, Huzhou district, in the Zhejiang province.
From an artist’s point of view, the two most important decisions when it comes to a brush are size and texture. Size is generally classified as small 小楷, medium 中楷, or large 大楷. The most common sized brush used in modern Chinese calligraphy is medium size. This is because a medium brush can produce a line from thin to fairly thick. Large brushes are only used for very large pieces. An artist chooses the brush texture depending on the style of writing. Texture is classified as soft 軟毫, mixed 兼毫, or hard 硬毫. The texture chosen depends on the script style. When starting to learn Chinese calligraphy, the best advice is to have a one medium sized brush of each texture.
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