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Song-Dynasty Rubbing Album of Mount Hua Temple Stele

Period: 165, Yanxi reign (158–167), Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), Song dynasty (960–1279)
Medium: ink, paper
Format: album

Artist(s): Guo Xiangcha

Dimensions: 22.25 × 12.8 cm

Produced towards the end of the Song dynasty (960–1279), this album of rubbings preserves the inscription from a stele at the temple of Mount Hua (Xiyue Huashan miao bei). Consisting of nineteen leaves (i.e., thirty-eight pages), the album measures 22.25 × 12.8 cm. Each side of the leaves has three columns of six characters. The original, intact rubbing was cut into strips and mounted as columns in the album.

Erected in the eighth year of the Yanxi reign (165) of the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE), the stele bears an impressive inscription in elegant clerical script (li shu) calligraphy. Wang Xisun (1786–1848) described the style as the boldest of the Han-dynasty bafen clerical script style and showing traits of what would later develop into the Wei epigraphy style (a general designation for the northern epigraphy of the Southern and Northern Dynasties period, 420–588). Han steles rarely bear the name of the original calligraphers. However, this work bears the name Guo Xiangcha at the lower left corner and was, thus, widely believed to be transmitted from his calligraphy. The monument was originally housed in the Temple of the Western Peak (Xiyue miao, with the Western Peak referring to Mount Hua, Huashan) at Huayin, Shaanxi Province, before it was destroyed. Its inscription records the ritual sacrifices (fengshan) to Heaven and Earth by emperors of successive dynasties and the restoration of the Mount Hua temple stele as directed by Agricultural Governor Yuan Feng.

The original stele was listed by Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072) in his Collection of Antiques (Jigu lu) and Zhao Mingcheng (1081–1129) in Records on Bronze and Stone (Jinshi lu). Referencing Catalogue of Chang’an Records (Leibian Chang’an zhi) by Luo Tianxiang (act. 13th c.) and History of Bronze and Stone (Jinshi shi) by Guo Zongchang (d. 1652), scholars have deduced that the stele was destroyed sometime from the late-Song to early-Yuan periods (Song dynasty, 960–1279; Yuan dynasty, 1271–1368). Extant rubbings are rare, and only four are reliable as authoritative copies. One is the Changyuan version, named after the home of the Ming-dynasty (1368–1644) collector Wang Wensun. The second is the Huayin version (also known as the Guanzhong version), which was formerly in the possession of the Dong brothers (represented by the elder, Dong Zhaoshang) of Huayin and Guo Zongchang. The third is the Siming version—formerly housed at Ningbo (called Siming in ancient times) in Feng Xi’s (act. Ming dynasty) Hall of Myriad Scrolls (Wanjuan lou) and Fan Qin’s (1506–1585) Belvedere of the Prime Under Heaven (Tianyi ge). The fourth is the Shunde version, named after Ji Shunde (act. Qing dynasty); this copy was also once in the collection of Li Wentian (1834–1895).

The Huayin version was skillfully produced with a generous application of ink, but over a hundred of the characters from the first to seventeenth columns of the original text are damaged as the rubbing—made sometime during the Song or Yuan periods—is later than the Changyuan and Shunde versions. The album’s additional leaves include colophons by figures such as Guo Zongchang, Wang Duo (1592–1652), Weng Fanggang (1733–1818), Huang Yi (1744–1801), and Ruan Yuan (1764–1849). Over 230 seals of appreciation were impressed into the album. In his colophon, Wang Hongzhuan (1622–1702) expresses his fervor for the flourishing prospect of the Han-dynasty clerical script. Zhu Yun’s (1729–1781) inscription discusses the progressive change from seal script (zhuan) to clerical and, then, regular script (kai) through the six-principle theory of character formation. Zhu Xigeng (1888–1927) describes the history of the various rubbings of the temple stele. These many colophons from scholars of the Ming and the Qing (1644–1911) are highly valuable to modern researchers in various fields of study.

This rubbing album was recorded in various works, including Clerical Explanations (Li shi) by Hong Shi (1117–1184) and The Temple Stele at the Western Peak Mount Hua of the Yanxi Reign of the Han Dynasty (Han Yanxi Xiyue Huashan miaobei kao) by Ruan Yuan.

Chinese entry by Shi Anchang
Translated and edited by Adam J. Ensign, Zhuang Ying, et al.

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