Among the Four Treasures of the Study (文房四宝), Duanxi inkstone (端砚) is considered the premium inkstone. Ink grinded on Duanxi inkstone is extremely smooth, and great for writing. As Duanxi inkstones are considered “cold”, whether it’s in winter or summer, ink on it does not dry up easily. There was a scholar who took part in the imperial examinations held during bitter winter, he grinded ink on his Duanxi inkstone and easily completed his essay, while others were having difficulties ensuring their ink did not freeze.
The rocks where Duanxi inkstones were mined from were formed over 400 million years in today’s Zhaoqing, China. Think about this: The Earth was formed 4.6 billion years ago, which translate into Duanxi inkstones containing 10% of Earth’s accumulated energy. Duanxi inkstones come in white and purple, and mined from different parts of Zhaoqing. The white Duanxi inkstones are mined from protected areas, which are now prohibited from further mining. Therefore, the purple Duanxi inkstones are more commonly seen then the white ones, earning the latter the description of as rare as a shooting star.
In ancient times, the white inkstones are only used by emperors for grinding red vermillion that was used to approve or reject official documents – all national affairs were decided by the red vermillion grinded on these white inkstones. Hence, white inkstones symbolise supreme power and authority. When we grind red vermillion on white inkstone, it is similar to making decisions on national affairs, business affairs, family affairs. With our abilities and faith, we grind the red vermillion in hope of achieving our heart desires.
-- Oo Hewe