Ying rocks come from various sources in the Guangdong and Guangxi provinces; its name derives from the source from which the earliest examples of this family originated. In the Ming dynasty, Wen Zhenheng (1585-1645) wrote in Zhangwu zhi (On Superflous Things), vol. 3, Pin shi (Evaluating Stones), “Lingbi stones are the best; Yingde stones are the next best”; however, the dark-hued Ying rocks became increasingly treasured and were viewed as a substitute for Lingbi rocks. The lustrous black colour of the current stone is coherent with the Song dynasty archives, including Dongtian qinglu (Pure Record of a Daoist Cave), in which Zhao Xigu wrote, “Lingbi stones are located not on the mountains or valleys but deep within the earth. They can be found only by excavating. Their colour is like black lacquer, and they may be laced with thin, white veins like jade.”
Traditionally scholars collected two types of scholar's rocks for their studies: vertical peaks and horizontal mountain ranges. The present piece is endowed with both these features. Hence, one can appreciate from different perspectives this stone so exquisitely wrought on all sides that it outdoes nature. It twists in all directions, its ruts and paths connect through the holes and hook up around the corners, and its peaks, ridges and tunnels are a convoluted maze. In texture and colour, the stone is like black lacquer, and is lustrous like grease.
Connoisseurs of scholar's rocks throughout the ages have boiled down their criteria for evaluating stones into twelve terms: thin, wrinkled, porous, permeable, clear, ugly, obtuse, clumsy, teal, powerful, beautiful and deep. Stones that have half of these features are considered rare and superior.