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Song Rubbing of the Wei Yuanpi Stele of the Eastern Han Dynasty

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Period: Song dynasty (960-1279)

Rubbing: Song dynasty (960-1279)

Stele: Guanghe reign (181), Eastern Han dynasty (24-220)

Inscribed in the fourth year of the Guanghe reign (181), the full title of the monument is Stele of Regional Inspector Wei Yuanpi of the Liang Region (Liangzhou cishi Wei Yuanpi bei). The featured piece is the sole extant original rubbing of the stele, and the original stone monument was lost sometime in dynastic history. When the rubbing was made, the characters already showed severe abrasion from erosion. The heading of the stele is still readable; it is inscribed in the seal script and may be translated to read, "Stele of the Late Regional Inspector Wei of the Liang Region of the Han" (Han gu Liangzhou cishi Wei jun zhi bei). According to writings on steles by Hong Kuo (1117-1184) of the Song dynasty (960-1279), the stele was already damaged when he made his record. At the time of his writing, he said that the inscription comprises sixteen lines and that the stone monument was damaged. He noted that each line consists of thirty-one characters in the remained inscription and that the heading was made of four lines of four characters each. Conversely, the modern scholar Yuan Weichun wrote in his Descriptions of Qin and Han Steles (Qinhan beishu) that the damaged stele contained twenty-eight characters in each line and a heading of four lines comprised of four characters in each line. Weng Fanggang (1733-1818) of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) added an inscription to the rubbing; he described the style as simple with forceful brush strokes and slightly resembling the monument engraved for Zhang Qian (Zhangqian bei) but with a more flowing design. Weng also noted how the arrangement was uneven and disorderly in some respects but that it could be considered a satisfactory work (nengpin) of the Han dynasty scribe.

  This piece is the only extant rubbing made during the Song dynasty of the original stele. Consisting of trimmed paper leaves, the rubbing album has eighteen pages; each page comprises four lines of eight characters. The pages are 33.3 cm long and 18 cm wide. The known provenance of the piece includes the collection of a certain Zhao family in Taian. The work eventually made its way into the hands of Huang Yi (1744-1802) and was considered a piece in his collection of five types of Han dynasty epigraphy. The rubbing has been graced with eleven inscriptions by celebrated individuals like Weng Fanggang, Bi Yuan (1730-1797), Zheng Jitang (act. latter half of 18th c.), and Huang Yi. The admirers of the work added their personal signatures and seal impressions to the work; seal markings such as Collection Seal of Huang Xiaosong (Huang Xiaosong shoucang yin), Seen by Qian Yong (Qian Yong ceng guan), and Weng Fanggang are some of the fifty-four seal impressions on the piece.

  The stele inscription was later re-engraved, and these later inscriptions served as the basis for additional ink rubbings. These rubbings are easily identified as non-original due to the less-neatly organized brushstrokes and absence of marks of deterioration.

  The rubbing has been listed in various catalogues, including works by Hong Kuo of the Song dynasty and Yuan Weichun, Yang Zhenfang, and Zhang Yansheng of the modern era.

Author: Yin Yimei (December, 2009) / Translator: Adam J. Ensign (April, 2017) / Editor: Li Yang 

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