This week we venture into the street markets of Singapore’s Chinatown. This photo of Chinese calligraphy brushes taken in a shop on Pagoda Street. The colors and textures of the brushes pop against the red background. Red is a very popular color in Chinese culture, especially during the Chinese New Year and is considered a sign of good fortune and luck. Red envelopes of money, hongbao in Mandarin, is a common gift and is featured in weddings but forbidden at funerals. Calligraphy brushes have been utilized for centuries for both writing and art and are the same type of brushes used for ink and wash paintings.
The body of a traditional calligraphy brush is made of bamboo but also of more exotic materials such as sandalwood, jade, ivory and precious metals. The head of the brush is crafted from hair or fine feathers. Commonly, the hair is from buffalo but sheep, rodents, pigs, rabbits, weasels, and even wolf are often used. The more exotic brushes are made from deer, fowl and tigers. Good fortune and an excellent heirloom can be had from a baby hair brush crafted from the child’s first hair cut. The brushes in the photo are primarily for tourists and make great, easily packable souvenirs. Just be sure that you are not engaging in exotic animal trade like tiger or ivory. Avoid creating a demand and a market for endangered/ exotic animal products by insisting that any products you purchase are not from these animals.