*This article was posted on March 20, 2013.  Today I repost this and add a few pictures.

I came across Chinese ink painting article from The Strait Times and copied it. Hopefully this article will let some of you understand a bit of Chinese painting.

Chinese ink painting differs vastly from western art due to their sparse colours, limited subjects and simple layout. Apart from differences in techniques and material used, culture and philosophy also come into play.

Chinese ink painting is traditionally taught by rote. The teacher demonstrates the strokes, and the student copies them until the latter’s movements become instinctive. The student is allowed to explore his creativity only when he is able to fully grasp the techniques.

If you are keen on taking up Chinese ink painting, here are some things you should know:

The art supplies used in Chinese painting – brush, paper, ink and ink stone – are known as “the four treasures”.


The ink is mainly made of pine soot and animal glue, and comes in the form of dried sticks. The ink made by grinding the stick against an ink stone with some water. You can vary the thickness of the ink by reducing or increasing the amount of water, and the intensity and duration of the grinding process.

ink slap n stick

The ink stone is usually smooth stone with small well to catch the ink. Grind only the amount of ink you need. If you leave excess ink out to dry, you’ll have a problem removing it from the ink stone later on.

The paper used is known as xuan or rice paper (which is not necessarily made from rice). It can be made from materials like bamboo and mulberry. The paper is not stretched as it would be in the case of Western painting.

rice papers

Black is considered a colour, and it is up to the skill of the artist to bring out the subtle nuances in the tonality and shades, and create the impression of variances in colour. If colour is used, the intention is not to replicate the subject exactly, but to convey the emotions and mood of the subject.


Each brush stroke the artist makes must be perfect as no corrections are allowed. In comparison, corrections and overpainting are normal aspects of Western watercolour painting techniques.

Beginners in Chinese ink painting usually use bamboo as subject. Because of its simple structure, bamboo is deemed an easy subject to paint: however the fact of the matter is that executing it correctly is much more difficult! Bamboo is also popular as a subject matter because it is one of the “four gentlemen” (subjects that represent the four seasons) that form the basis of all Chinese brush painting styles. The “four gentlemen” are : plum (winter), orchid (spring), bamboo (summer) and chrysanthemum (autumn).