Jade Scholar’s Inkstone

Twelfth to Fourteenth Century

Length: 4 inches (10.16 cm)

Grey and Black Nephrite Jade


This scholar’s inkstone is of exceptionally simple design and elegant workmanship, suggesting that it was made for use during the lifetime of a social elite, rather than for use in the afterlife. James Watt writes in The Chinese Scholar’s Studio that of the four treasures of the scholars studio- brush, ink, paper, and inkstone – more attention was lavished on the selection of the inkstone than any other. It was believed among the scholars that unadorned pieces were more graceful and their creation required a higher degree of skill. This aesthetic held that apparent simplicity is in fact the ultimate development of refinement.


The present example is of a mottled grey and black material with some black inclusions. The stone is incised with three intersecting circles at the top, and a fine border around the well of the inkstone. It is housed in a highly polished wooden box with two mother of pearl inlays. In our opinion the workmanship, material, and subject matter suggest a date between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries.


Reference Number: 3641


For an in depth discussion of art objects made for the Scholars Studio, see The Chinese Scholar’s Studio, Artistic Life in the Late Ming Dynasty by Li Chu-Tsing and James C.Y. Watt. Thames and Hudson, New York, 1987.


For a further discussion on the decorative arts of the Chinese scholar please see “The Chinese Scholar’s Taste and The Decorative Arts.” Wang Shixiang. Orientations, August 1987. Pages 40-47.


To inquire about this work of art, contact us at 415.421.3434 or email at sbernsteinjade@aol.com