QING DYNASTY, 18TH CENTURY
The inkstone is of elongated rectangular shape with a deep well on one side of
the interior flat surface and surrounded by a keyfret border. The four sides are
covered with a cash diaper pattern. The back has a raised thick border incised
with the characters mengbi shenguang 夢筆生光 ‘dream brush begets brilliance’
inscribed vertically in the middle of the inkstone. The jade is of very pale celadon
colour with natural white cloudy inclusions.
Calligraphers Wang Xun 王珣 (349-400), Jiang Yan 江淹 (444-505), and Li Bai 李 白 (701-762), among others, had dreams involving brushes: After Wang dreamt he was given a giant brush the size of a roof beam, he produced some of the greatest compositions of his age. Jiang Yan dreamt that his “brush” (i.e. talent for writing) was his only on loan and that he must return it to its proper owner; thereafter his writing degenerated. When Li dreamt that flowers bloomed out of the top of his brush handle, his skill as a poet soared. “Dream brush” thus became a cliché for great literary talent and beautiful writing.