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Chinese Red Ink's Heritage Value

Chinese red ink paste could become a "fifth treasure of the Chinese study."

By Zhang Qingchen Updated Jul.17

In the practice of traditional Chinese calligraphy and paintings, people generally only focus on the seal cutting and neglect the ink paste; but without the red ink, the seal cutting won't be visible,” Tian Zhaoyuan, director of School of Social Development at East China Normal University, told the Shanghai-based news portal The Paper, stressing that the ink paste for seals is an important part of artistic creation, though it is a relatively minor project compared to other aspects of China's cultural heritages.  

Chinese ink paste is a vermilion oily pigment, which is used for seals and stamps. Tian noted that the best way to protect such cultural items is to see them as part of the legacy of calligraphy and traditional painting, rather than treating them as a separate research area. He added that the bright, durable, and elegant seals served as a foil to traditional Chinese ink works, forming a color contrast between the black content and the red seal that signified the artist. 

As the main demand for the good-quality ink paste is in traditional high-end arts, Tian suggested, red ink paste could be added to the "four treasures of the Chinese study" (writing brushes, ink sticks, paper and inkstones) to solidify its cultural legacy.