The TWSBI 1791 INKS are here! Ink enthusiasts will tell you that there is a story behind every bottle, every shade, every nuance.
Here’s the short story behind these inks.
‘1791’ marks the first official publishing of the book ‘红楼梦’ (in English: Dream of the Red Chamber). It is one of China’s four great novels alongside Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin and Journey to the West. This text is also known as The Story of the Stone.
What is the novel about?
It is an episodic novel, detailing the decline of the Jia family. It has a huge number of characters, about 30-40 main characters! The focus of the novel is on the heir of the clan, the spoilt but gifted Baoyu.
The novel begins with a goddess who creates a series of stones to build the heavens, leaving a single stone behind. This stone gets taken by two monks to earth, the goddess having written tales and messages on it.
The story continues with two friends, one loaning the other money to prove himself as a magistrate. Yu-cun (the one who borrows the money) then becomes an important figure in the ministry. His friend suffers a bad fate in comparison. Yu-cun’s story continues leading us to a place where we learn about Jia Baoyu, who was very special as he was born with a piece of jade that had been inscribed on, in his mouth.
This jade defines him giving him the potential power to be either good or evil. It also allows him the immense capability for romance!
The narration then brings us to the micro perspective of Baoyu’s house and his family. We see his struggles as he prefers to spend time in romantic dalliances rather than in academic education. He ends up in the world of a fairy! In that world he learns much. However the author also shows us his inability to comprehend many things that were taught to him.
Due to the feudal system, Baoyu does not get to marry the woman he prefers and gets tricked into marrying another which he does not find out till the day of the wedding. He then loses his mind.
Almost at the edge of death, a monk appears with Baoyu’s lost jade and that becomes the turning point in the novel.
TWSBI 1791 INKS
These inks were created with this history of China’s great novels in mind, it details much about the social, cultural and political life at the time, a very insightful historical and yet thoughtful and thought-provoking tale of a noble family’s struggles.
In the novel, there are Twelve Beauties of Jinling and 6 of them are featured here in the 6 inks. The 6 inks are named after 6 buildings which the ladies lived in;
Emerald green 潇湘馆
Lin Daiyu 林黛玉 – Jia Baoyu’s younger first cousin and his true love. She is the typical image of spirituality and intelligence in Chinese classical literature: divinely beautiful, sentimental, noble, sarcastic with high self-esteem. She also suffers from a respiratory ailment.
Sky blue 蘅芜苑
Xue Baochai 薛宝钗 – Jia Baoyu’s wife. She lives in the Jia family after failing the selection for the emperor’s harem. Where Daiyu is unconventional and sincere, Baochai is wordly-wise and very tactful: a model Chinese feudal maiden. Described as extremely beautiful and socially graceful, her attributes complement those of her cousin Lin Daiyu.
Royal purple 风藻宫
Jia Yuanchun 贾元春 – Baoyu’s elder sister by about a decade. Originally one of the ladies-in-waiting in the imperial palace, Yuanchun later becomes an Imperial Consort, having impressed the Emperor with her virtue and learning. Her illustrious position as a favorite of the Emperor marks the height of the Jia family’s powers. Despite her prestigious position, Yuanchun feels imprisoned within the four walls of the imperial palace.
Jia Yingchun 贾迎春 – A kind-hearted, pretty and well-read, she does not compare in intelligence and wit to any of her cousins. Yingchun’s most famous trait, it seems, is her unwillingness to meddle in the affairs of her family. Eventually Yingchun marries an official of the imperial court, her marriage being merely one of her father’s desperate attempts to raise the declining fortunes of the Jia family. The newly married Yingchun becomes a victim of domestic abuse and constant violence at the hands of her cruel, abusive husband.
Jia Tanchun 贾探春 – Baoyu’s younger half-sister by Concubine Zhao. Extremely outspoken, she is capable and talented poet. But the concubine children are not respected as much as those by first wives. Tanchun is nicknamed “Rose” for her beauty and her prickly personality. She later marries into a military family on the South Sea far away from home.
Prairie green 蓼风轩
Jia Xichun 贾惜春 – Baoyu’s younger cousin from the Ningguo House, but brought up in the Rongguo House. A gifted painter, she is also a devout Buddhist. She is the young sister of Jia Zhen, head of the Ningguo House. At the end of the novel, after the fall of the house of Jia, she gives up her worldly concerns and becomes a Buddhist nun. She is the second youngest of Jinling’s Twelve Beauties, described as a pre-teen in most parts of the novel.
It mirrors the author’s own life much, and for more historical details about the text you can read this article here.
But for now, let’s keep this novel’s tradition and memory alive through these inks. So it won’t be just a picture painting a thousand words but also ink memorializing a thousand words!
Once again, you can shop the collection here.