The Chinese brush is a much more refined tool than its Western
counterpart. Around the core of long, resilient, and sharp-tipped hairs,
there are several layers of softer, shorter hairs, which serve as a
reservoir. With one and the same brush, both very thin and very heavy lines
can be drawn.
The brush is used both for painting and calligraphy. These two arts are
closely connected. Not only do many Chinese paintings have calligraphic
inscriptions, but the lines in the painting, especially the contour lines,
have a distinctly calligraphic quality.
Before the 20th century, Chinese painters never used oil paint. They used
only Chinese ink and water colours, applied on paper or silk.
Chinese paper is highly absorbent. Once a line has been drawn, it cannot be
corrected. For very detailed, elaborate paintings, the paper is treated with
alum, to make it less absorbent. Silk for painting is usually treated the
On most Chinese paintings, one or more red stamps or seals can be found.
They usually give the name of the artist. The characters are of a special
type, called "seal script".
Most Chinese paintings are scroll paintings. They have a thick wooden stick
at the bottom and a thinner one at the top. When they are not being shown,
the paintings are rolled around the thick stick and stored away.