The Houdian Writing Brush
The manufacture of writing brushes came into existence in Houdian Village of Shandong Province during the reign of Emperor Yongle around 1404 of the Ming Dynasty, and flourished in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). In the early years of the Republic of China, almost all brushes sold at Beijing"s famous Daiyuexuan and Hukaiwen stores were made by workers from Houdian. In 1952, the Houdian people built a large plant to pass on the traditional craftsmanship to the younger generation and to develop it.
The main materials for the brush come from animals" tails, such the wolf and civet, or ox ear hair, in more than 40 varieties. Hair collected in the winter is best for making high-quality brushes. Five main procedures are followed strictly to produce the brush correctly: washing and dying of the hair, carving characters on the shafts, packaging, and miscellaneous processes. Each of the five procedures contains about a dozen processes before a uniquely shaped brush with a special specification is made for different purposes.
Brushes made at Houdian Village are durable, offering a good combination of flexibility and stiffness, the ability to absorb more ink than others, and with little likelihood that the hair will out.
Without the writing brush, Chinese painting and calligraphy could not have achieved such distinct features, and thus would not have enjoyed such great success around the world. The writing brush makes great contributions to the dissemination of Chinese culture. With the development of social economy and culture, craftsmanship is continually improving, and the types of writing brushes are on the rise.