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Chinese Antiques Attract High Bids

September 2, 2012
By Terry Kovel , The Post-Journal

For the past few years, auctions of Chinese antiques have attracted many bidders and high bids. The auctions have included many items that were not recognized by American bidders. A recent auction sold a "Chinese polychrome-decorated inkcake" for more than $1,000. I had to do some research. An inkstick or inkcake is a piece of solid ink that might be a mixture of soot and animal glue made from egg whites, fish skin or animal hides. Its scent was enhanced with cloves or sandalwood or other natural products. Other types of inkcakes were made of burnt material, plant dyes or minerals. The mixture was kneaded and pressed into a carved mold to dry. The inkcake had to be ground on an inkstone with some water. The ink could be mixed to be thick or thin. An ink brush was dipped into the ink and then used to write or draw on paper. Early examples date back to the 12th century B.C. New ones are in stores now. The auction's inkcake dated from the mid-1700s. The colored raised decoration on one side pictured a landscape with a temple, table, sculpture and candle. The other side was decorated with a colored dragon in the sea, a mark and an inscription. The inkcake was stored in a carved wooden box that was 4 7/8 inches high, 3 1/8 inches wide and 7/8 inch deep. Inkcakes, as well as inkstones, inkbrushes and paper, are highly regarded as symbols of culture.

 
 
 

 

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