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
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