Archive for category Sightseeing

Stone Stelae

I had better explain that although I wrote my first blog over two weeks ago, it is only now that I’m able to post it, thanks to VPNS. The Great (fire) Wall doesn’t like these sorts of sites. So now there is really no excuse for not blogging.

I have been lucky enough to have had some days off work as there has been a national holiday here in China. One of the most impressive museums I visited was the Xi’an Beilin Museum. This was set in an old Confucian Temple and contained room after room of stone tablets – known as the Forest of Stone Tablets. Altogether there were 4,000 pieces from the Qin, Han, Ming and Qing dynasties. It had been established in 1087 when some precious stelae were moved there for safe keeping.  These stone tablets were beautifully carved by various famous calligraphers. It was fascinating watching the Chinese trying to make out the characters of ancient Chinese scripts. The tablets were not merely epitaphs or brief historical records a la Romans. Oh no, these were pages of text set in stone. The “Kaicheng Stone Classics”  took 7 years to complete. Everything from Confucian classics, Buddhist sutras, accounts of Christianity in China (431AD), history, philosophy, poetry and also pictures and maps carved in stone. Some stones were rough drafts and you could see the crossings out and corrections. Teachers, don’t complain about your marking load again!  It is the world’s oldest stone library and the finest collection of calligraphy in China.

The sculpture gallery was also a gem, containing a large collection of Buddhist statuary from the ancient city of Chang’an (Xi’an). Many of the pieces have been discovered as Xi’an’s construction industry  relentlessly continues to dig up the city.