We all know Chinese brush is one of the four treasures of Chinese literature, but how many people know its origin?
It was told that in the final few years of the Warring States period, the Xiong Nu tribes frequently invaded the northern land of Qin empire, the King of Qin sent one of his trusted generals, Meng Tian to guard the north. At that period of time, instead of writing on papers with brushes, people are engraving words on to bamboo stripes. It is very time-consuming and inconvenient especially in the ever-changing battlefield
Meng Tian was supposed to report the battlefield situation to the King of Qin, so that they could properly arrange a logistic planning to deploy foods and soldiers to assist Meng Tian in defending the North territories. Unfortunately, with Xiong Nu actively invading the land of Qin, engraving the report on the bamboo stripes takes up too much time, by the time they finished the report, the battle could be long over.
Seeing the urgency of the war, Meng Tian has to do something, and at that time he saw the Xiong Nu tribe’s people was painting with the animal hair. That moment he came up with an idea, he tore away a piece of fabric on his soldier’s equipment and use it as paper. He then cut off the rabbit tails and tie it on a bamboo branch to act as a brush. This has form the basic shape of a brush, he tested out with curiosity and the result was outstanding. This new finding not only speed up the military communication method but also gain the respect of the King of Qin.
After multiple times of experiment and improvised, he had officially designed the proper brush making techniques which no-body else had ever done so. According to a Chinese Ancient text recorded: “Meng Tian created Qin Brushes, with dried wood as tube, deer hair as the column and goat fur as the quilt” therefore, Meng Tian has became the creator of the brush-making industry.
Although Meng Tian was often relates as the creator of the brush, but he was actually a reformer of brush. Archaeologists has found evidences that the earliest Chinese brush had appearance in Shang Dynasty, but during that time the name of the tools were inconsistent throughout various regions. The raw materials used are not necessarily be bamboo and animal hair. In fact anything that can be inked and write wordings are called brushes. With Meng Tian’s improvement in the brush-making techniques, changed the people’s perception of the brushes, and his work is absolutely indispensable throughout the china cultural history.