The Legend of Meng Tian

In Uncategorized by Skritter

Legend claims that while Meng Tian (A general from the Qin era ~210 BC) was garrisoned in the northern boarder regions of the great Qin empire, he took great issue with his inability to send reports of his campaigns to the Qin emperor, owing largely to the fact that sending messages at that time could only be done by carving the script onto stone and wood planks… a very time consuming endeavor! By the time a carving was done and ready to send back to court battle updates would have changed so much that it wasn’t even worth sending in the first place.

Meng Tian, however, was a clever and resourceful man. One day while facing his soldiers in formation he came up with a brilliant idea. While walking his way through the ranks he suddenly grabbed a soliders weapon, ripping a piece of red ribbon from it and immediately began fastening it to a small stalk of bamboo. Once the ribbon was secured on the bamboo, he dipped it into a bowl of colored liquid and proceeded to write his battle reports on long thin piece of white silk. He marveled at the time this could save, and the sheer ease of writing this way.

But the general didn’t just stop with his ribbon tied to bamboo contraption! As he traveled the empire waging war, he would continue to improve upon his new found way of sharing information, making changes and adaptations that best seemed to suit the current circumstances and local environments. In the far north of the Qin empire, where wolves and goats were prominent, he started experimenting with using animals hairs as the nib of his “brush,” manufacturing the first ever langhao (狼毫: wolf-hair brush) and yanghao (羊毫: goat’s hair brush) and became known as the inventor of the writing brush or 毛筆/毛笔 (máobǐ), literally the hair pen… or at least that’s what the legend says!

毛笔:A collection of Chinese writing brushes… all thanks to Meng Tian!

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