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The Forest of Stone Steles in Xi'an

 2014-05-22    Ada    Sights    Xian    1391  

The Forest of Stone Steles is a good place to get close to Chinese history and culture. Why? It includes 11,000 relics, including three thousand stone steles or epigraphs that are housed in seven separate exhibition rooms. Among these many precious relics, there are 19 groups deemed to be national treasures that the visitor should not fail to see. The numerous standing steles likens a forest, hence the name " Forest of Steles".

Besides, it is also the center of the works of art of noted calligraphers of past dynasties. It is a classical courtyard styled structure at the site of former Confucian Temple in Sanxue Street, Xian, close to the south gate of Xi'an City Wall. With a history of over 900 years, it is an art treasure well known at home and abroad.

Established in 1090 during the Northern Song Dynasty, the Stele Forest Museum in Xi'an is well-known nationally for a fine and large collection of more than 1, 000 inscribed stones, engraved during a 2,000 year period from the Han Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. The museum has an area of over 30,000 square meters. It is one of the centers of ancient Chinese stone-engraving classic. All together, there are 3,000 steles in the museum, which is divided into seven exhibitions halls, which mainly display works of calligraphy, painting and historical records.

For example, the first room is just behind the Stone Tablet of Classic of Filial Piety. The major exhibits in this room are the Kaicheng Classics, carved in 837 AD during the Tang Dynasty. This is a group of stone tablets with 12 reading books for intellectuals inscribed on them. Ancient Chinese people carved such books in stone to prevent copying errors and thereby provided models by which students could check the accuracy of reproduced texts.
The most special stele should be Nestorian Stele. It is a 279-cm tall limestone block. The stele documents the existence of Christian communities in several cities in northern China and reveals that the church had initially received recognition by the Tang Emperor Taizong in 635. The Nestorian Stele is located in No.2 Hall and is the first stele on the left after the entry.

Tablet inscriptions tell us about the religions, life styles and historical facts of ancient times in a vivid way. They provide tourists with a grasp of the general outline of Chinese history and the interaction of China and other countries. For the fans of Chinese calligraphy, these inscriptions are of great interest as they are fine examples of the diverse styles of Chinese characters. These pieces of art are works dating from the Han Dynasty through to the Qing Dynasty with over 1,000 memorial tablets forming the Forest of Stone Tablets.

Xi'an Forest of Stone Tablets is more than a treasure house of ancient Chinese calligraphy. It is also a big collection of China's historical documents and records and stone carving patterns.

These tablets keeps a record of some of the large achievements of Chi- nese culture. It can show us today the truth of the cultural intercourse among China and other countries. It will be a shame that tourist will miss the Forest of Stone Tablets if they travel Xian.

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