Awarded the honorable title of “a great craftsman of China” in 2018, Yang Songyuan, a man in his 60s, has been making writing brushes for nearly 50 years.
Developed in Huzhou in east China’s Zhejiang province, the Huzhou writing brush serves as one of the “four treasures of study” in traditional Chinese culture (the other three are Xuan paper, Duan ink stone and Hui ink) .
Yang Songyuan makes writing brushes. (Photo provided by Qianjin town, Huzhou)
Making writing brushes is not as easy as it appears, as it requires full concentration. In the first week of learning, Yang could not even pick up the most fundamental brush-making skills, he recalled.
Instead of giving up, Yang dove into learning the techniques, further improving his skills through learning from several masters.
He has also been constantly improving the skills of making Huzhou writing brushes to better meet customers’ needs. In order to improve the resilience and life expectancy of the brush, he adopted plant ash to degrease the hair under high temperature, instead of the traditional method of using limestone and sulfur.
Photo shows notes taken by Yang Songyuan. (Photo provided by Qianjin town, Huzhou)
In addition, Yang often seeks feedback from different calligraphers and painters, for the purpose of innovating the ink brushes. Under his efforts, over 100 varieties of customized writing brushes have been launched.
Two varieties were selected by an international expo as permanent exhibits, while several other varieties sold well in Hong Kong.
“Making the writing brush is indeed a boring and rigorous job, however, since I like it, I am willing to spend my whole life time on this work,” Yang said.
Photo shows writing brushes made by Yang Songyuan. (Photo provided by Qianjin town, Huzhou)
In recent years, Yang focuses more on the cultural inheritance of the Huzhou writing brush. Not only has he made documentaries and written papers on the writing brush, but he also set up a team to do more research and innovate the skills of making the ink brush.