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Museum of Forest Stone
Forest of Stone Tablets in Xi'an

Xl'an Forest of Stone Tablets was originally set up in 1087. It is an art treasure-house containing the largest and richest collection of stone tablets of anciet China. These pieces of art are works from the Han Dynasty through to the Qing Dynasty, including over 1,000 memorial tablets forming the Forest of Stone Tablets.

Xl'an Forest of Stone Tablets is not only a treasure house of ancient Chinese calligraphy, but also a rich collection of China's his- torical documents and records and stone carving patterns. These tablets record a part of the great achievements of Chi- nese culture and can reveal to us today the truth of the cultural ex- changes between China and other countries. No tourist will take the risk of missing the Forest of Stone Tablets, a place of great inter- est, once in Xl'an.

The Xl'an Forest of Stone Tablets was born out of the place where the stone classics in the Tang Dynasty were kept. The so called stone classics during the Tang Dynasty included the "Classic of Filial Piety" in the handwriting of Emperor Xuan Zong in 745 A.D. and the "Kaicheng Stone Classics" engraved in 837 A. D.. These stone classics were originally erected inside the Imperial An- cestral Temple (in the vicinity of Wenyi Road, southern suburbs, Xi'an) in the Tang Dynasty. By the end of the Tang Dynasty, Zhu Wen forced Tang Zhao Zong to move the capital to Luoyang and de- stroyed Chang'an City almost completely, bringing it down to ru- ins. Han Jian, commander--in--chief, reduced the size of the city for the purpose of easy defence. As a result, the stone classics were abandoned in the wild suburbs, Later on, Han Jian was the first to move the Imperial Ancestral Temple and the Classics of Filial Piety into Confucian Temple (along the Shehui Road, western street, Xl'an) inside the city proper.

In 909 A. D. , when Liu Xun defended Chang'an, he too moved the Kaieheng Classics into the Confucian Temple. That was the earliest place where the steles in the Tang Dynasty were kept.

Because of the low--lying land and poor environment, which were not fit to keep the stone classics, in 1087, all the stone classics and other important steles in the Tang Dynasty were shifted to the place where the stone forest lie. This is the earliest "Forest of Steles in Xi'an". Because of the poor light and constant rubbings of the steles, the steles became very black, so people called this place "dark hole" or "hole of steles".

In 1555 A.D. a big earthquake took place in Central Shaanxi. The forest of steles suffered serious destruction. Out of the 114 kaicheng classics, 40 fell down and lay broken due to the quake. In 1588, Ye Shirong, scholar then in Shaanxi, supplied the missing words and carved them, according to the character forms, onto 97 small stone steles, and placed them along side the stone classics. Consequently the Kaicheng Stone Classics were kept in their com- plete form as "a book of stone carvings". In 1664, the Book of Mencius was engraved additionally.

The name "Stone Forest" was determined in the early years of Qing Dynasty. The Stone Forest now houses over 3,000 pieces of stone steles ranging from the Han Dynasty to the Qing Dynasty. The museum has seven display rooms, six epitaph corridors and one tablet pavilion.

In March, 1961, the State Council promulgated that the Stone Forest was a national monument.

In front of the first display room is a Tablet Pavilion specially built for the Classics of Filial Piety.

"The Classic of Filial Piety (Xiaojing)' is the largest tablet in the Forest. It was engraved in 745 A.D. in the handwriting of Em- peror Xuan Zong(Li Longji). The Classic was compiled by a disci- ple of Confucius, Zeng Shen after attending lectures given by Con- fucius. Emperor Xuan Zong wrote a preface for the classic with the purpose of showing his wish to administrate the country by advocat- ing the principles of Filial Piety. The following parts are the original text of the classic. The small characters are the annotations made by Emperor Xuan Zong. The tablet is set on a three-storey base, with vividly carved line drawings of trailing plants, lions, etc., typical of the middle Tang art. The relief on the upper part is a bad --relief of clouds and auspicious animals. The tablet is made up of four pieces of stone, and a base under it, therefore it is called "Stone-base Classic of Filial Piety".

The First Display Room

The Second Display Room

The Third Display Room

The Fourth & Fifth Display Room

The Sixth Display Room

Stone Sculpture

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