Ying Stones, The Tiny Ones. 英石
Ying stones are one of the oldest and most famous of the traditional viewing stone types. Records date back about 1,000 years to the early publication Yunlin Shipu (1126-1130 C.E.) where the stone type is listed, and then later illustrated in the book Suyuan Shipu (1613 C.E.). These stones originated in the Yingde Mountains near the city of Yingde in Guangdong province in southeastern China. They range from medium- to large-sized stones. Many of the larger ones were displayed outdoors, often in large stone pedestals. Later, smaller sized Ying stones were brought indoors and displayed on hand-carved wood bases.
These stones are composed of ancient marine limestone, sometimes with fine quartz veins. The Yingde mountain ranges have been exposed to rainfall for thousands of years resulting in a slow but steady eroding of the softer portions of the stone. The use of coal and charcoal for cooking and heating has resulting in an increased level of acid rain that increases the etching of this stone type. As a result, these abstract shaped stones are usually characterized by sharp edges. Color ranges from light to dark gray; but occasionally some black ying stones are seen. The black color is attributed to a higher level of organic matter in the stone.
Recently, stone enthusiasts have begun to collect and display tiny Ying stones either as individual stones or, more often, in sets displayed on small stands. These stones, often ranging from 5 to 12 cm (2 to 4.7 inches) in size, possess the traditional criteria of quality Ying stones—shou (thinness), lou (channels), tou (holes), and zhou (wrinkles). They are ideal for small display spaces and suitable for smaller apartments. As a result, the popularity of these smaller stones is growing rapidly. The interest in tiny Ying stones is a modern development that lacks an historical basis. The early literature on Chinese stone appreciation does not mention diminutive Ying stones.
The bases for these tiny stones are often hand carved from wood or fashioned from small pieces of stone. A stone base provides a heavier and more stable base for these lightweight, fragile pieces. The tiny bases can be more difficult to make than bases for much larger stones. These stones are available only in a few shops in the Yingde region; we predict that their popularity will grow and that they will be in high demand in the future.