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Sights & attractions
Museum of Forest Stone
Stone Sculpture

This showroom containing stone sculpture was built in 1963. It houses more than 70 pieces of stone sculptures which were scattered all over Shaanxi Province. These pieces of art are classified into two groups: mausoleum carvings and religious carvings. They are here arranged in a chronological order.

Stone sculpture is the gem of the nation's excellent cultural heritage. Shaanxi is one of the places where the nation's early de- velopment of stone sculpture and abundant historical relics have been found. The province is particularly renowned at home and abroad for its large numbers of superb skill of stone sculpture, which occupies a conspicuous position in the nation's sculptural his- tory.

Let's start with the mausoleum sculpture. This pair of stone animals used to be placed in front of a mausoleum to protect it from evils. The craftsmen combined characteristics of lions and tigers, and created such an imaginary beast of prey. The forceful legs, mighty and active figures all reveal the superb skills and creative tal- ents of the sculptors of the Han Dynasty.

These are Eastern Han stone relievos discovered in Northern Shaanxi.

Relievos are pictures chipped on stone surface. It originated fi'om Western Han Dynasty, and became popular in Eastern Han Dynasty. For 2000 years or more, it shows its eternal artistic glam- our in its unique style. During the Western Han Dynasty extrava- gant burial was very popular. Among the nobles, there was a strong concept of "living again after death". They had engraved on the tomb walls what life they lived and what they respected and loved, so they could enjoy after their death in another world. The Han Dynasty relievos were thus born under such circumstances. Be- sides some historical legends, the subject matter of the relievos orig- inated from real life, such as ploughing, hunting, music and dance and the style of noble lives. These relievos, vivid and true to life, are the miniature of the social life of the Han Dynasty. Therefore, they are not only the artistic creation but the historical records as well. And at the same time they provide valuable data for the study of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

There are about 500 pieces of stone relievos of the Eastern Han Dynasty, unearthed in Northern Shaanxi, out of which 133 pieces are retained at the Museum of the Forest of Stone Tablets. This ploughing relief could be an example. It tells us how oxen were used for ploughing in the fields in Northern $haanxi. It helps us greatly to understand the country's state of agricultural produc- tion in ancient times. Although the drawing is just a simple sketch, such works of art about ancient ploughing are rarely seen and are thus very valuable.

This is a complete entrance to a mausoleum. On the door leaf are scu!pted a scarlet-bird, a white tiger, a blue dragon, and a tor- toise on the lower part of the door frame. They were believed to be gods of the four directions of south, north, east and west in ancient times. The engraved figures on the door suggested good luck and safety.

This is an outer coffin for Li Shou (630 A. D. ), a cousin of the Tang Emperor Gao Zu (Li Yuan). It is made up of 28 black stones. The tombstone bearing inscriptions for him is not in the tra- ditional square shape, but in the shape of a stone tortoise. In the Tang Dynasty, a tortoise was a symbol of'longevity and high rank. However, it was very rare to find a tortoise-shaped tombstone. There have been only two tombstones of the sort found so far. Un- fortunately, the one discovered before this is missing for reasons no- body knows. Surely this tortoise-shaped tombstone is really valuable in archaeology.

This stone rhino of ten tons, carved in 635 A.D. , used to be placed in front of Tang Emperor Gao Zu's tomb. It was copied from live animals from some foreign countries as a tribute to the Tang Dynasty. In addition, the piece of art was carved out of one huge stone. It is actually a memento of friendship between China and for- eign countries.

These six world-famous steeds of Zhaoling Mausoleum were sculpted when Zhaoling Tomb was built by order of Emperor Li Shimin in memory of six horses, which served him in wars. An outstanding painter named Yan Liben made the drawings. Two of the bas-relief steeds, known as "Saluzi" and "Quanmaowua" were stolen by an American who worked in collaboration with the feudal war-lords in 1914. They are now kept in Pennsylvania, at the Uni- versity Museum of Philadelphia.

In 1918, they broke the other four steeds into p!eces in an at- tempt to ship them away in boxes, but they were found and blocked up by the locals. The bas-relievos of the six steeds are vigorus and graceful regarded as one of the rare treasures of art in the Tang Dy- nasty.

This pair of stone lions used to be placed in front of Zhaoling Tomb. The vivid modelling fully expresses the animal's characteris- tic of dignity. In the Tang Dynasty, training lions was very popu- lar. Tamed lions could perform dances in time with music for recre- ation in the palace. The man standing over there is a lion trainer. What we shall see next are religious carvings, mainly of the Buddhist religion.

Buddhism was introduced into China from India around the first century A. D.. In Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern dynasties (256--589 A. D. ), different sects of Buddhism appeared in China. Buddhist scholars specializing in the religion began to give lectures as a profession. The religion reached its height in the Sui and Tang dynasties. China then developed her own sects of Buddhism. Idol carving came to China with Buddhism, accelerated and enriched craftsmanship of Chinese sculpture.

This figure belongs to the Southern and Northern Dynasties, with features typical of Indian Gandhara sculpture, an ancient school of sculpture which was very popular in India's Gandhara from the first through the sixth centuries A. D.. This kind of sculpture shows beautiful postures, terse lines and clear patterns of clothing real to the touch. This statue of Maitreya adopted both the Chinese traditional craftsmanship and merits of foreign art. This carving of Boddhisattva belongs to the Sui Dynasty. It wears a jewel crown, jade lace trimmings, and is sitting erect. The delicate carving is in good proportion,typical of the Sui sculpture, which maintained some characteristic touches of the Southern and Northern Dynasties but tended to be more realistic. It broke through the trammels of foreign art norms and developed a rich artistic style of our own.

The Tang Dynasty witnessed a high level of development of the Chinese art. It was in this period that Buddhist statue modelling at- tained maturity. The varied styles, accurate figuring and skillful manufacturing were all unprecedented. It is worth while to have a look at these fine carvings of the Tang Dynasty.

This handsome Boddhisattva looks graceful and solemn. The meticulously carved muscles, jade trimmings, scarf and lotus petalg are all real to the touch, well-proportioned, and in perfect harmo- ny. And the cutting shows a skillful, lucid and lively style. This masterpiece of the Tang sculpture is great in every sense of the word.

This statue of a warrior is full of vigour, and is sculpted with ease and grace. The strong physique and armour suit are somewhat exaggerated, but reasonable.

The craftsmen drew on their powerful imagination and inge- niously adopted the method of contrasting the false and the true, the loose and the compact, thus creating a graceful integrated struc- ture. The marvellous craftsmanship is certainly an embodiment of the superb wisdom of those creators.

This is a statue of Li Er, the founder of Taoism, which is a re- ligion of the Han nationality, originating in the late Eastern Han Dynasty. It was probably made by Yuan Jla'er, a famous sculptor from the Western Regions. This dignified and plump figure carving is one of those masterpieces of the Tang Dynasty sculptures.

Forest of Stone Tablets in Xi'an

The First Display Room

The Second Display Room

The Third Display Room

The Fourth & Fifth Display Room

The Sixth Display Room

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