The Chinese writing brush, which is closely related to Chinese characters and calligraphy, originated some 3,500 years ago.
With the development of modern society, the writing brush gradually went out of daily use for most Chinese people.
Eighty-one-year-old Guo Fusheng in Jiaxian County of Pingdingshan, a city in central China's Henan Province, is one of the few who can still master the superb traditional skill of producing writing brushes.
Guo began to learn from his uncle at the age of 14. These skills was handed down in his family for four generations. From this early age, Guo's life seemed to be closely linked to the writing brush, while his own destiny witnessed ups and downs along with the zigzag course of modern Chinese history.
Guo did not produce any writing brushes for more than 10 years during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76). He returned to his skill in 1983.
According to Guo, it takes several days to produce a big writing brush, but he can produce 10 small brushes in one day.
The best material for making a writing brush is wool from the young white goat raised on the Chongming Island in the East China Sea, which is very near Shanghai.
A writing brush needs to go through more than 100 processing procedures before it can finally be used.
But selling the writing brushes seems to be an even more difficult task.
"Fewer people are using writing brushes now," Guo sighed.
Guo has trained six apprentices, but none of them learned the skills as well as Guo expected.
Now Guo's one and only hope is that he can hand down his skills to his 13-year-old grandson and granddaughter.
(China Daily November 14, 2003)