LIFE / CULTURE
Young Chinese people rediscover charm of traditional art tools
Published: Jun 05, 2022 04:59 PM
Yang Mei, who majored in traditional Chinese painting in college, is an avid fan of "the Four Treasures of the Study" - ink brush, ink, paper and inkstone - that are used in traditional Chinese painting and calligraphy.

She said that many of her peers who are not art majors have rediscovered the charm of traditional art, and they often gather together to discuss painting and calligraphy.

"It's the love of the traditional Chinese culture that ignites our affection for 'the Four Treasures of the Study,'" said Yang, who began learning Chinese painting when she was 5 years old.

Xu Heping, owner of a traditional arts supply shop in the Northwestern Chinese city of Yinchuan, has seen an increasing number of teenagers and young adults become new customers.

"With hopes that their children will be adept at Chinese calligraphy, more and more parents have invested in calligraphy training," he said. 

"As a result, teenagers and young adults often come to my shop."

Wang Dongxiang, owner of a similar shop, said that many of her young customers are rather mature connoisseurs of the traditional tools.

"They know how to choose products based on their writing style. They often have unique and cultured tastes," Wang said.

Catering to the growing popularity of ink brushes and paper, manufacturers have begun to put a modern and innovative spin on the designs of the traditional tools in order to attract young buyers.

Wang Weiji runs a popular online shop on Taobao that sells traditional art tools with innovative designs, drawing heavily on feline imagery. One of Wang's bestsellers is an inkstone shaped like the paw of a cat.

"It is so cute! I never expected an inkstone to be so cute," commented one mother who bought one for her child to learn calligraphy.

Wang said that many of his designers are young people who had previously worked on Chinese animation or film posters and are acutely aware of the new trends among young Chinese people.

"The popularity of cat-themed 'Four Treasures of the Study' lies not only in the design, but also in young people's affection for pets," Wang said.

The growing popularity of traditional art tools is also beneficial to the revival of the craftsmanship behind the complicated manufacturing processes.

The making of quality paper is time- and labor-consuming, and often involves over 100 steps, Yang said.

"The popularity of 'the Four Treasures of the Study' can be encouraging for craftsmen and women, and may attract more young people to the sector," she said.