Hu Kaiwen Ink Factory (Tunxi) - Close Touch with the Mysterious Chinese Inkstick
Type: Factory, Museum, Historical Site
Best Seasons: All Seasons
Recommended Visiting Time: 1 hour
Popular Activities: Ink-making Experience
Opening Time: 9:00am ~ 11:00am & 2:00pm ~ 5:00pm
Tickets: Free (150RMB for experiencing ink-making)
Address: No.45, Xinan North Road, Tunxi District, Huangshan City (安徽省黄山市屯溪区新安北路45号)(only about 600 meters within 10 minutes' walk away from Tunxi Old Street, 5 kilometers (about 20 minutes' driving) from Huangshan Tunxi Airport; 14 kilometers (about 40 minutes' driving) from Huangshan North Railway Station; 60 kilometers (50 minutes' driving) from Mount Huang Scenic Area)
Things about Chinese Inksticks
Inksticks (墨), one of China's Four Treasures of the Study of classical literary along with brushes, inkstones and papers, is a great carrier of Chinese traditional culture. As a type of solid ink, Chinese inksticks is the primitive coloring material for calligraphy and brush painting. Grind the inksticks against an inkstone with a small amount of water, and then the liquid ink comes. Calligraphers and artists always increase or reduce the intensity and time of ink grinding to change the thickness of the ink according to their own needs.
The earliest artifacts of Chinese inks can be traced back to 12th century BC. Huizhou Inksticks (徽墨) has long been accepted as the highest grade among all kinds of inksticks since Tang Dynasty (618 ~ 907). In fact, the ingredients of inksticks is always a mystery inherited by a few remaining manufactories of the ink stick production. The manufacturing of inksticks is also a craft but you can carefully appreciate it in Hu Kaiwen Ink Factory.
History of Hu Kaiwen Ink Factory
In late Tang Dynasty, Xi Chao (奚超) and his son Xi Yangui(奚廷珪) who once made inksticks for living migrated from Henan to Shezhou (歙州) to seek refuge from the war. When they came to Shezhou and saw the clustered pine trees (important raw materials for making inksticks), they decided to return to their former career. They added several Chinese herbal medicine and raw lacquer into the pine soot, and then the finished inksticks become antiseptic, mothproof and balmiest. When the emperor of Southern Tang Dynasty Li Yu (李煜) get the inksticks made by Xi Chao and Xi Yangui, he cherished the inksticks as treasures and ennobled Xi Yangui as Ink Officer. Xi's Family was given a family name of “Li” and people call the inksticks “Li Ink (李墨)”. Hereafter, Li Ink became famous. In Song Dynasty (960 ~ 1279), emperor Song Huizhong renamed Shezhou as Huizhou, and Li Ink became well-known as Huizhou Ink.
Since then, a mass of skillful craftsman in Huizhou began their inksticks career. During the reign of Emperor Qianlong of Qing dynasty, Hu Tianzhu (胡天柱) learnt making inksticks in one factory as an apprentice. Because of his intelligence and uprightness, he was high valued by his boss and took over the factory finally. He renamed himself Hu Kaiwen (胡开文) which literally means developing literature. Under his operation and management, Hu Kaiwen Inksticks Factory became the best and most popular one. As time goes by, it remains the traditional working process of manufacturing inksticks which has attracted a large number of artists, writers, travelers, etc. Till now, there are two factories well-preserved – one is in Huangshan City (Tunxi) and the other is in Shexian County (歙县). The one in Huangshan City is more popular because of its good location and convenient access.
Highlights of Hu Kaiwen Ink Factory
While you are walking on the small lane to Hu Kaiwen Ink Factory, you will gradually smell the ink's fragrance. Visiting Hu Kaiwen Ink Factory, you will get enough to see and to do. The most highlighted part must be seeing the workers making inksticks. More than that, you can even experience making inksticks personally and admire the delicateness of the finished inksticks and Inkstones.
★Exploring Traditional Process of Making Inksticks
The whole process of making inksticks roughly includes soot collecting, mixing and shaping, drying, and painting and decoration. You can clearly see almost all the producing process except from collecting soot.
Refining Soot – Refining soot is extracting soot from the pine branches or oil reserves by incomplete combustion. It is the most important step for making inksticks. The duration and degree of heating determine the quality of soot while the quality of soot determines the quality of the inksticks. This step can only be see in a few days of one month.
Making Gule – Hu Kaiwen Ink Factory always use bone glue. Put the raw bone glue into the pot and pour water with an temperature of 30 ~ 40 ℃. Stirring them with a piece of bamboo and bring in the steam when the gule is bonded to each other.
Mixing and Shaping Inksticks – There is a big cool workshop where you can see workers mixing and shaping inksticks. The temperature has be controlled in constant temperature to keep the ink in best condition, so it might be a little cold for visitors. You can see a worker mixing the soot and the ingredients together, and then putting it in the mould to shape it into a cuboid.
Drying – The inksticks cannot be put in the sunlight directly, or it will lose its good quality. Instead, it needs drying in the wind naturally. In general, the drying period lasts for at least 6 months.
Painting and Decoration – When the inksticks is dried, the workers will gild it with beautiful decorations, like flowers, birds and other auspicious patterns.
Moreover, you can also witness the process of making inkstones. An inkstone is a stone mortar for the grinding and the containment of ink. It might be made from stone, clay, iron, porcelain and bronze. There is one inkstones workshop where you can see two workers engraving the stones. You must be marveled at how a stone become an inkstone with delicate patterns after the workers' elaborate carving.
★Experiencing Making Inksticks in Person
Get amazed by the mysterious skill of making inksticks and want to join in the workers? Of course you can. Hu Kaiwen Ink Factory provides visitors an opportunity to experience one part of inkstick-making process. Under the instruction of a qualified teacher, you will learn how to mix the materials together, pound them with a pestle, and press them into the mould. When you finish your inksticks, you can print your handprint on the inksticks and take them home. It will be a memorable souvenir for your trip to this Chinese old factory or a treasured gift for your family and friends.
The fee for experience making inksticks is 150RMB/2 Inksticks (available to be shared by two people). Making one inkstick takes about 1 hour usually.