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Usually, some water is applied onto the inkstone (by means of a dropper to control the amount of water) before the bottom end of the inkstick is placed on the grinding surface and then gradually ground to produce the ink.
More water is gradually added during the grinding process to increase the amount of ink produced, the excess flowing down into the reservoir of the inkstone where it will not evaporate as quickly as on the flat grinding surface, until enough ink has been produced for the purpose in question.
Books and scholarship on the various inkstones of China existed chiefly in Japan, where a long bibliography on the subject exists.
Inkstones should be appreciated in the context of the traditional scholar's studio culture and the appreciation of furnishings, antiques, paper, seals and all other associated objects.
Stimulated by the social economy and culture, the demand for inkstones increased during the Tang Dynasty (618–905) and reached its height in the Song Dynasty (960–1279).
In Europe, from Roman times, the term "vellum" was used for the best quality of prepared skin, regardless of the animal from which the hide was obtained, calf, sheep, and goat all being commonly used (other animals, including pig, deer, donkey, horse, or camel have been used).
Although the term derives from the French for "calf", animal vellum can include hide from virtually any other mammal.
The inkstone, together with the ink brush, inkstick and Xuan paper, are the four writing implements traditionally known as the Four Treasures of the Study.
The inkstone is Chinese in origin and is used in calligraphy and painting.