Ying Stones

by Zhu Zhangyou, President, Yingde City Marvelous Stone Association and Guangdong Stone Appreciation Deputy Secretary General

The city of Yingde, located near the middle reaches of the North River, is a place that abounds with beautiful stones. Ying stones play such an important role in this region that the city and nearby mountains are named after the famous Ying stone. Settlements predating Yingde city date back to 111 B.C. The tradition of using Ying stones as garden stones and as indoor viewing stones is ancient. These stones were described in Dy Wan’s Yunlin Shipu, a stone catalog published in the Song dynasty. There are other records from the Song dynasty concerning Ying stones including a poem by Yang Wanlin. His poem reads:

“Clear and distant sceneries, though good, are not enough for appreciation

Speaking of the best sceneries in Zhenyang, the south peak should be the champion

A brook suddenly appeared in the back of the cliff,

It splashes in the forest of strange stones by the river.

To both sides of the river, there are lines of jade bamboo shoots,

Outside this peak, there are millions of green mountains.

There are marvelous sceneries in places that are dangerous and hard to get.

From ancient times to now, who is fond of the danger and hardship?”


The famous calligrapher Mi Fu once accepted an appointment to be an official under the head of Hankuang County (nowadays Huanguang county in Yingde City). Mi Fu was a famous stone connoisseur and collector who was obsessed with Ying stones. Because so many artists have painted his portrait bowing and paying his respect to a large Ying stone, Mi Fu is known throughout the world. The literati and artisans have all featured these stones in their works throughout the dynasties. Ying stones were taken for display in the Imperial Gardens in Beijing. These beautiful stones have been used in many gardens, palaces, and mansions. Even today, these stones were used in building a friendship garden in New South Wales, Australia and in the new Singapore National Garden.

Another later poet, Zhu Yizun, from the early Qing dynasty wrote:


“Outside the gates of the Qu River, you can take advantage of the new mound,

Even paintings cannot compete with the stones you get from Ying State.

Grasp the six peaks and put them into your sleeve.

I go home with the stones that will serve as a great company to the jade-like moon.”


One of the more famous Ying stone is the Wrinkled Cloud Peak that is placed in the Jiangnan Famous Stone Garden near West Lake in Hangzhou. It was a gift from a Guangdong military leader to his former teacher.

Ying stones can be divided into two types. The Ying Mountains have considerable exposed limestone rock. The rock exposed to long-term weathering are hard, thin, and wrinkled and, if you knock on them, the sound is crisp and clear. They may have numerous sharp edges and points from the weathering process. These stones are often used as indoor viewing stones and for making penjing arrangements. The Ying stones that are buried in the earth without adequate weathering are softer and with a more smooth texture that is sometimes dark in color and sometimes with holes. They may be very large—up to five meters or more-- and have strange shapes.

Today, the city of Yingde is using its famous stones to promote tourism and economic development by promoting festivals, arts and crafts, and artists featuring Ying stones in their work. The Yingde City Marvelous Stone Association is actively promoting their namesake stones domestically and internationally.


References in Chinese:   Lai, 2006; Lai, Lin & Fan, 2007; Liu, 2006; Liu 2007, pp. 58, 59; Ren, 20002;  Ren, 2002.

References in English:   Hu, 2002, pp. 45-48; Hu, pp. 22-24.

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