Ink Stone and Cover, 2nd-3rd century. Duan stone, 3 7/16 x 3 x 11/16 in. (8.73 x 7.62 x 1.75 cm) (irregular). Gift of Ruth and Bruce Dayton, 2000.34.3a,b. Minneapolis Institute of Arts © 2014 Minneapolis Institute of Arts.
Ink stones began to be carved with decorative designs at least as early as Song. This has a cover decorated in classic Song style with an enframed hibiscus blossom. Relatively naturalistic, the design was likely inspired from similar themes found in contemporary album and fan paintings. Small double compartment inkstones such as this were often used to grind the colored pigments used in paintings.