If you are shopping for a very affordable — as in sub-$30, sub-$20, or even sub-$5 — fountain pen and you want high-end features like screw-on cap, included converter, or piston-filling mechanism then you will almost certainly want a Chinese fountain pen.
These pens have made incredible advances in the last decade and now offer a set of features and a price range that makes them distinct and interesting type of fountain pen unto themselves.
Chinese Fountain Pens In 2022
Today, in 2022, Chinese-made fountain pens from Chinese brands have been widely available for the better part of a decade. These pens have made a name for themselves thanks to the value and features they offer. The level of quality of these pens has risen dramatically as has the level of packaging and polish they offer. As a result the buying experience of a nicer Chinese pen, like a PenBBS, is closer to that of a traditional fountain pen manufacturer than ever before.
Brands like Wing Sung, Moonman, and Jinhao offer incredible value for the money, but they might have some shortcomings that we don’t expect from standard fountain pens, like poorly labeled products and difficulty finding quality resellers, but problems like these are decreasing in scale every year.
Chinese fountain pens, often a nicer brand, like Moonman, will have a unique and interesting design, while other models still have designs that are in some way derivative of more famous pens from older, more famous brands. This lack of uniqueness can be a downside if you want style for your pen, in addition to writing performance.
Chinese Fountain Pens Explained
Most Chinese fountain pens are very affordable, but they don’t have websites with clear explanations, and often don’t come from vendors we know and trust, though we are starting to get to know them.
Most of the pens have very slow shipping times (sometimes 2-4 weeks to the US), so even remembering what you bought can be an issue. It was with those challenges in mind that we set up this top Chinese fountain pens video review.
Note: The video was shot in 2019, but the below information is up to date.
Featured in the top Chinese pens round-up video:
- Caliarts Ego – Piston-filler that looks like a Twsbi 580. Nice writer and a reasonable starting point for people who are new to Chinese pens. The latest version of this pen is sold as the Caliarts Ego II.
- Jinhao 992 – Basically the Monteverde Monza, inspired by the Sailor 1911
- Kaco Edge – Inspired by the Lamy 2000, German nib from Schmidt
- Wing Sung 3003 – Pilot Prera-inspired, poor writer, scratchy nib
- Wing Sung 3007 – Kaweco Sport clone, but fit and finish are worse. Writes nicely
- Wing Sung 3008 – Piston-filler that looks like the Caliarts Ego and Twsbi Eco. It has a Lamy-compatible nib. Probably the cheapest piston-filler you can find.
Notable Chinese Fountain Pens
Here are some Chinese fountain pens that are worth knowing about. These are pens know and have used but aren’t necessarily the best available (those are discussed below).
- Jinhao 159 – An older model but a reasonable choice if you want a larger pen
- Jinhao 51A
- Jinhao x450 – Known for its rubberized grip and a popular choice for people with sweaty hands
- Jinhao x750
- Moonman C1 – A squared-off version of the M2. Can use used with a converter or as an eyedropper
- Moonman M2 – A very popular choice for a nicer Chinese fountain pen. This $20 eyedropper is nicely built and really shows of your ink. Watch out for fakes.
- Moonman N3 – A long, elegant pen made of celluloid. Usually selling for $30-$40
- Moonman Q1 – A short, wide pen that looks like a Tombow Egg
- Moonman T1 – A piston-filling Moonman with styling like the Kaweco Sport line, usually sells for over $25
- Moonman X1 – A retractable fountain pen with a price of around $40, sometimes sold as the Majohn T1
- Penbbs 268 – One of the cheaper vacuum fillers sold today, like a skinnier Penbbs 456
- Penbbs 308 – A simple, affordable cartridge/converter
- Penbbs 309 – A higher-end take on the Chinese fountain pen, more akin to the Twsbi Eco than most pens on this list. Piston-filler
- Penbbs 350 – A metal body fountain pen that converts to a rollerball
- Penbbs 355 – A bulk-filler mechanism pen that looks a lot like a Conid
- Penbbs 456 – A high-end Chinese fountain pen and a really nice vacuum-filler
- Penbbs 500 – An affordable pen that uses a spring filling mechanism
- Wing Sung 3009 – A very cheap piston-filler, one of the older designs still sold so it’s rather outdated
- Wing Sung 601 – An affordable vacuum-filler similar to the Parker 51 vacumatic. Sometimes sold with a gold nib or as the 601A with an conical nib
- Wing Sung 6359 – $2.00 – Lamy Al-Star clone
- Wing Sung 618 – A Parker 51 clone that is a nice writer and quite good looking. Unlike the Parker it’s a piston-filler. Also sold with a gold nib (that we haven’t yet tested)
- Wing Sung 698 – A reliable piston-filler and one of the most highly regarded Chinese fountain pens. The nibs are interchangeable with some Pilot steel nibs. Often compared to the Twsbi Eco
The Best Chinese Fountain Pens
Here are some top picks in Chinese fountain pens in 2021.
It is very hard to say one of these is a clear best, but if you had to pick one, I’d recommend the Jinhao 992. This pen is one of the top in terms of build quality and quality control, it has a smooth nib, and it looks great. The 992 writes like a Pilot nib with a nice ink flow, wonderful smoothness, and great handling. The pen is a little small and it’s not a piston-filler like some of the other pens on this list, but it still gets top marks.
Wing Sung 3008
If you are looking for maximum bang-for-the-buck then you should be in the market for a Chinese piston-filling pen, which will often undercut its Japanese and European competition by a cost factor of around 75%. In this case you should pick up a Wing Sung 3008.
This pen is a nice writer with a Lamy-compatible nib, so you can upgrade it if you happen to have a Lamy nib lying around. That said the included nib has some strengths of its own so if you can get the flow right people might actually prefer the stock nib.
This is a good looking, reliable pen with a metal clip, demonstrator body, and piston-filler that is reminiscent of the Twsbi Eco.
Wing Sung 699
If you want to go high-end and really see what these companies are capable of, then buy yourself a Wing Sung 699. This $30 vacuum-filling fountain pen was clearly inspired by the Pilot Custom 823, but had excellent build quality, a nice nib, and a large, hefty body that feel like it’s from a pen that costs 10x as much.
The 699 is in a higher class of Chinese fountain pens, which aren’t afraid to have prices at the $30 mark. This, of course, isn’t expensive in the scheme of things, but it’s much different from the four-pens-for-$8 that you might be used to with many Chinese fountain pens. For the increased price, you get a nice #6 size nib, a smoother writing experience, better packaging, and overall great built quality.
One of the flagship Chinese fountain pens is the PenBBS 456. This is a large, classy vacuum-filler that looks and feels like it’s a $200 pen. When it turns out you can get one for about $50, some people are shocked by the value, other are shocked than a Chinese-made fountain pen has hit this price. Of course, pens like this a resetting the expectations for a brand like PenBBS and many pen enthusiasts are starting to realize that these brands are capable of much more than clones and sub-$5 pens.
With quality and features that rival the Pilot 823 and other world class, $200+ pens, this has emerged as a top buy for people looking for a excellent, affordable pen.
What are the best Chinese fountain pen brands?
“Best” is largely subjective, but if you are looking for the highest quality pens from the most reliable brands, then start with Jinhao, Wing Sung, Penbbs, and Moonman.