After I finished with the Bell Tower and Drum Tower tour, I took a taxi to the Xian Forest of Stone Steles Museum, which was about 5 minute drive from the drum tower.
About the Stone Steles Museum
The Xian Stone Tablets Museum contains the largest collection of stone tablets. The museum houses over 3000 stone steles with a history of over 900 years, and these are all treasures of ancient China's calligraphy masterpieces. The museum also has some of the best of the Han and Tang Dynasty stone calligraphy carvings, and it also contains the largest stone tablet library of ancient hisotrical records.
The Xian Forest of Stone Steles was founded in 1087, and contains various stone tablets dating as far back as the Han Dynasty (206BC). The museum is world famous for preserving ancient Chinese stone tablets which record historical events, and cultural developments within China.
Main courtyard after entering the front entrance leading to the Stone Tablet Museum.
Xian Stone Tablet Museum Tour
The Xian Forest of Stone Steles Museum is separated into several areas, or "rooms" each displaying various stone tablets. After the front entrance, I came up to the "first room". This display hall contains mainly the "Kaicheng Classics" which contain 12 books that were "must have" books for intellectuals in the feudal society. Some of these books include:
- The book of changes
- The book of history
- The book of songs
- Account of Rites of the Zhou Dynasty
- The Qiuming's Commentary on the spring and autumn period annals
- Gongyang's commentary on the spring and autumn period annals
- Guliang's commentary on the spring and autumn period annals
- The Canon of Filial Piety
- Confucian Analects
- They Erya
Altogether, about 650,000 some Chinese characters were inscribed on 114 stone tablets (228 double sided).
Now, when I visited, these stone tablets are huge, and place behind protective glass casings. Due to aging and wear and tear, there's typical damage that comes with time, such as chips and cracks.
Photo of a section of a large stone tablet.
As you can see in the photo above, literally hundreds of thousands Chinese characters are carved into the stone tablet, and if you look closely enough, you'll see a rather large crack in the stone tablet in the top right corner and right side. Although I can manage to read many of the individual characters inscribed, I really have no clue what it's saying. It's like being able to pronounce an english word purely from knowing the alphabet, except having no idea what the word means. :) Within this room, there are information boards that explain in english and chinese what various tablets contain, and highlights their significance.
The Second Room
After finishing my tour of the first room, I headed to the second room. This room mainly consists of famous stone tablets of the Tang Dynasty (618-907). This room contains several stone steles documenting historical cultural exchanges between the Tang Dynasty and foreign countries. Other important stone tablets displayed here include:
- The stone tablet of Hangfu Dan
- The stone tablet of Master Monk Dao Yin
- The stone tablet of the Yan Family shrine
- The stone tablet of the Xuanmi Pagoda
- and much more.
A stone tablet with its base carved in a shape of a turtle.
The Third Room
The third room exhibits stone tablets across several dynasties that bear several styles of ancient Chinese writing. Some of the writing styles exhibited include:
- Seal style - on the "stone tablet of the preface to the poem of the Meiyuan Mystical Spring"
- Official script shown on the "stone tablet of Cao Quan"
- Regular script displayed on "the Stone tablet of Yan Qinli"
- Running hand script is shown on tablets such as "stone tablet of Master Monk Hui Jian"
- Cursive script on "Huai Su's 1,000 Chinese character stone tablet"
Large stone tablets on display in the third room.
More to come about the remaining rooms in the next part.