Hair writing brush set into bamboo shaft, Chinese, 19th century.
© Science Museum / Science & Society Picture Library
Calligraphy is an art form that has been practised in China for over 2000 years. In about 213 BC the Chinese Prime Minister Li Szu drew up an official list of over 3000 characters (which he called the 'chuan-shu') to unify their written form for scholars. Out of this, five major styles of calligraphy developed, all of which are still in use today. Calligraphy brushes are made with goat, rabbit or weasel hair. Their handles, or shafts, are made from bamboo, wood, porcelain, or precious materials such as ivory and jade.