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Remnant Stone Inscriptions of Classic Texts from the Xiping Reign

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Period: 175, Xiping reign (172–178), Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE); Song dynasty (960–1279)
Medium: ink rubbing
Format: album

Dimensions:  29.2 × 11.8/22.4/12.5 cm

Rubbings of incomplete steles dating to the Song dynasty (960–1279)
Album of two-and-a-half leaves, 29.2 × 11.8/22.4/12.5 cm
Authenticated and collected by Huang Yi (1744–1802)

Dating to 175, the fourth year of the Xiping reign (172–178) of the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), the original stone steles were carved as a complete set of classic works, including the Five Classics (Wujing—i.e., the Book of Songs, Shijing, also known as the Classic of Poetry; Book of Documents, Shang shu; Book of Rites, Li; Book of Changes, Yi; and The Annals of Spring and Autumn, Chunqiu), The Gongyang Commentary (Gongyang), and The Analects of Confucius (Lunyu). Attributed to the calligrapher Cai Yong (133–192), the square clerical script (li shu) of the carefully arranged inscriptions was the standardized script in circulation at the time. These works are known variously as Stone Classics of the Xiping Reign (Xiping shijing), One Character Stone Classics (Yizi shijing, meaning “in one script”), and One Script Stone Classics (Yiti shijing). Believed to be the work of Cai Yong, Li Xun (d. 189), and other scribes as per imperial orders, the inscriptions were produced to ensure the standard transmission of classical texts and engraved on steles erected in front of the National University (Taixue) in the aforementioned year. Recorded in various histories, this epigraphic project was immensely meaningful and influential. The biography of Cai Yong in the History of the Later Han (Houhan shu) records how the classics had become corrupted with errors over the centuries and how these inscriptions served to correct the literary record and provide a standard for scholars to read and copy.

In 190 (the first year of the Chuping reign, 190–193), the warlord Dong Zhuo (d. 192) left much of the city of Luoyang in ashes during his insurgency, and the capital was moved to Chang’an. During the turmoil, the steles were damaged. Repaired at the beginning of the Wei period (220–266), the steles were subsequently moved several times and suffered further damage. Efforts were made to collect historic stone inscriptions in the Tang dynasty (618–906) during the Zhenguan reign (626–649), but the steles could not be found. By the Song dynasty (960–1279), some of the inscriptions had been unearthed. One of the discoveries at Luoyang was made by a man with the surname of Zhang; his find included over ten fragments with over 970 characters from texts such as Book of Documents, Lu Poetry (Lu shi), Book of Etiquette and Ceremonial (Yili), The Gongyang Commentary, The Annals of Spring and Autumn, and The Analects of Confucius. Copies of the remnant inscriptions include one engraved by Hu Zongyu (1029–1094) at Chengdu, another by Hong Kuo (1117–1184) at Kuaiji, and one by a man surnamed Shi at Yuezhou. After the beginning of the Republic of China period (1912–1949), further fragments were unearthed.

The oldest extant rubbings were made by Sun Chengze (1593–1676) and Huang Yi (1744–1802). Similar in most respects, these rubbings were obtained by the Manchu Duanfang (1861–1911) of the Tuoteke clan and later by Heng Yong. Both are now in the collection of the Palace Museum. Huang Yi listed the inscriptions in his Epigraphy Catalogue of the Small Penglai Belvedere (Xiao Penglai ge jinshi mu) and added his seals to this featured album. The extant monuments are now in museums, including Luoyang Museum in Henan Province; Shangcheng Museum in Yanshi, Henan Province; and Beilin Museum (lit. “Forest of Steles”) in Xi'an, Shaanxi Province.

Chinese entry by Qin Ming
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign, Zhuang Ying, et al.

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