- "Indian ink" redirects here. For the play by Tom Stoppard, see Indian Ink (play).
(or Indian ink
in British English
), also called Chinese ink
since it may have been first developed in either China
, is a simple black ink
once widely used for writing and printing, and now more commonly used for drawing
, especially when inking comics
and comic strips
. Indian ink generally will readily clog fountain pens
if not used for long time, it's then necessary to use water to unclog it. An exception to this is Pelikan
Fount India, which does not contain shellac
, the substance which can cause clogging.
The ink used in early India
since at least the 4th century BC was called masi
, which was an admixture of several chemical components. Indian documents written in Kharosthi
with ink have been unearthed in Xinjiang
. The practice of writing with ink and a sharp pointed needle was common in early South India
. Several Jain
sutras in India were compiled in ink. In India, the carbon black from which India ink is produced is obtained by burning bones, tar, pitch, and other substances.
Mark Gottsegen argues that India ink was first invented in China, even though India was the source of the carbon pigment used. He states that the traditional Chinese method of making the ink was to grind a mixture of hide glue, carbon black, lampblack, and bone black pigment with a pestle and mortar before pouring it into a ceramic dish where it could dry. In order to use the dry mixture, a wet brush would be applied until it reliquified. Joseph A. Smith also argues that India ink was first invented in China, but used lampblack, carbon black, and bone black that originated in India. Michael and Mary Woods assert that this process of making India ink was known in China as far back as the middle of the 3rd millennium BC, during Neolithic China. However, E-tu Zen Sun and Shiou-chuan Sun say that India ink was most likely invented by Wei Dan (also known as Wei Zhongjiang) of the Cao Wei state (220–265 AD).
The Chinese had used India ink derived from pine soot before the 11th century, when the polymath official Shen Kuo (1031–1095) of the mid Song Dynasty became troubled by deforestation (due to the demands of charcoal for the iron industry) and desired making ink from a source other than pine soot. He believed that petroleum (which the Chinese called 'rock oil') was produced inexhaustibly within the earth and so decided to make an ink from the soot of burning petroleum, which the later pharmacologist Li Shizhen (1518–1593) wrote was as lustrous as lacquer and was superior to pine soot ink.
Uses other than writing
- Hanetsuki (羽根突き, 羽子突き) is a Japanese traditional game, similar to badminton, played by girls at the New Year with a rectangular wooden paddle called a hagoita, and a brightly-colored shuttlecock. The shuttlecock must be kept in the air as long as possible. Girls who fail to hit the shuttlecock get marked on the face with Indian ink.
- Indian ink can also be used for home-made tattoos (sometimes called "stick and poke" or "prison" tattoos), by repeatedly stabbing the skin with a sharp sewing needle wrapped in ink-soaked thread.
- In pathology laboratories, Indian ink is applied to surgically removed tissue specimens to help maintain orientation and indicate tumor resection margins. To avoid having an inky mess, the painted tissue is sprayed with acetic acid, which acts as a mordant, "fixing" the ink so it doesn't track everywhere. This ink is used because it survives tissue processing, during which time samples of tissue are bathed in alcohol and xylene before being embedded in paraffin wax, as part of making glass microscope slides. When viewed under the microscope, the ink at the tissue edge informs the pathologist of the surgical resection margin or other point of interest. Distance from the tumor to the edge of the specimen is an important prognostic indicator that surgeons and oncologists use to decide follow-up treatment options.
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