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Stele Fragment with Stone Classics of 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, paper
Format: album

Dimensions: 23.5 × 16.5 cm, 26.5 × 14.7 cm, 23.5 × 9.4 cm

Produced during the Song dynasty (960–1279), this rubbing preserves inscriptions of classical Chinese texts from a stele fragment engraved in the Xiping reign (172–178) of the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE). The stele was part of a series of inscriptions variously called the Stone Classics of Xiping (Xiping shijing), One Character Stone Classics (Yizi shijing, meaning inscriptions in one script), or One Script Stone Classics (Yiti shijing). Scholars believe the clerical script (li shu) texts were likely written by Cai Yong (133–192) as per imperial orders to rectify errors in the text and provide a standard for textual transmission. Inscribed in the year 175 (the fourth year of the Xiping reign), the steles with these texts were erected in front of the National University (Tai xue) in the city of Luoyang but were soon damaged or destroyed during war. By the Song dynasty, some fragments of the steles had been unearthed. For instance, in Luoyang a man with the surname of Zhang found over ten fragments with a total of over 970 characters from the Book of Documents (Shang shu), Lu Poetry (Lu shi), Etiquette and Ceremonial (Yili), The Gongyang Commentary (Gongyang), The Annals of Spring and Autumn (Chunqiu), and The Analects of Confucius (Lunyu). Various copies of the texts from the stones were made; these include one by Hu Zongyu (1029–1094) in Chengdu, another by Hong Kuo (1117–1184) at Kuaiji, and one by a man surnamed Shi in Yuezhou. Many more fragments were discovered after the beginning of the Republican period (1912–1949). This rubbing was authenticated and collected by Sun Chengze (1593–1676).

Although the stone classics unearthed during the Song dynasty were included in the catalogues of connoisseurs, extant rubbings are rare. The only two extant old rubbings (i.e., those made before the Republic period) are Sun’s and another that belonged to Huang Yi (1744–1802). The two rubbings are essentially the same and were eventually added to the collections of Duanfang (1861–1911) of the Manchu Tuoteke clan and later by another collector of the modern period named Heng Yong. In his Epigraphic Writings of the Small Penglai Belvedere (Xiao Penglai ge jinshi wenzi), Huang made a record of Sun’s rubbing in which he noted how the copy by Hong Kuo in his Clerical Explanations (Li shi) contained over a thousand characters but that Sun’s rubbing in his Inkstone Studio (Yanshan zhai) only had one-hundred characters from the Book of Documents and The Analects of Confucius.

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

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