An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Sheyan shuo 歙硯說

Mar 18, 2024 © Ulrich Theobald

Sheyan shuo 歙硯說 is a book on ink-stones from the prefecture of Shezhou 歙州 (today’s Huizhou 徽州, Anhui) written by an unknown person during the Song period. It consists of two parts, the second of which bears the title Bian Yanshi shuo 辨歙石説.

The text describes how the stones are broken from the ground and processed, in order to create wonder and high-quality pieces used for various purposes. The stones of Shexian, hailed from various stone pits around the prefecture, were famous for their beauty and structure. The text also mentions typical patterns found in the structure of the material like eyebrows, nets, or 眉子”、“羅紋”、“jinqin 金鈫. But the author also points at problems in the material on which craftsman had to keep an eye.

自州一百八十里至西坑口,入山谷林莽,盤屈鳥道又三十里;自縣三十里過溪,大嶺重複九十里,並至羅紋山下。 10 自州一百九十里,自縣八十里,並至濟口入山,又七十里至濟源。 11 龍尾山,亦名羅紋山,下名芙蓉溪,石坑最多,延蔓百餘里,取之不絕。 12 眉子坑,在羅紋山之西,從溪下至坑十餘丈,坑中無土,深丈餘,闊二三尺許。 13 羅紋裏山,在羅紋山後。 14 羅紋舊坑,地名寨頭,即錢云所訪南唐採石故坑也。 15 水舷坑,在眉子坑外,臨溪,至冬水涸方能取之,入地丈餘,石多金花。 16 水蕨坦坑,在羅紋山西北,其理若浪。

The chapter Bian Yanshi shuo also describes the textures of 27 typical stones, for instance, the pattern "dark fine net pattern" (an xi luo wen 暗細羅紋): "Though the net lines are fine, they are obscure, and the texture is almost hidden. The colour of the stone is slightly greenish-black." Another example is the texture "pair of eyebrows" (duimeizi 對眉子): "The stone lines are finer than painted eyebrows, and with symmetric parts all over the place."

The text is preserved in the series Baichuan xuehai 百川學海, Shuofu 說郛, Xuejin taoyuan 學津討原, Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Meishu congshu 美術叢書.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, ed. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1853.