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Stone Steles Museum
The Stone Steles Museum in Xi'an is an art treasure-house with the oldest and richest collection of steles in China. It is not only one of the centers of ancient Chinese stone-engraving classics, but also the focus of the works of art of celebrated calligraphers of past dynasties. The numerous standing steles resemble a forest, hence the name " Steles"'. With a history of almost 900 years, it is an art gem renowned at home and abroad.
The Steles is an enlargement to the Confucian Classics stone inscriptions in the Tang Dynasty. Shitai Xiaojing ( stele engraved with the Canon of Filial Piety) and Kaicheng Shijing ( steles engraved with the Confucian Classics) of the Tang Dynasty were originally kept in the Imperial Academy in Wu Ben District of Chang'an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty ( in the vicinity of the present Wen Yi Street, southern Xi'an). Following the devastation in the late Tang Dynasty, Chang'an was rebuilt with its size reduced by the order of Han Jian, magistrate of Chang'an. In 904 AD the engraved Confucian Classics were moved inside the Wen Xuan Temple ( in the vicinity of the present She Hui Street of Xi'an).Due to poor environment, in the second year of Yuan You of the Song Dynasty, ( 1087 AD) on the suggestion of Lu Dazhong, all the Confucian Classics and other valued Tang steles were moved to the present site of the Steles under the auspices of Li Chi. Thus the foundation of the Steles was initially laid. With the successive collections of Steles in the Song, Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties, it was gradually renovated and expanded, making one feel among a Steles. But it was not until the early Qing Dynasty that the name " Steles" was finally chosen. Based on the design of Liang sicheng, China's well-known architect, the Steles was extensively renovated in 1937, and was completed in Feb. 1938, looking in the main the way it does today.
Map of Stone Steles Museum
In March 1961, the State Council decreed that the Steles was among the first group of national cultural relics to be given special protection. Now it is an important part of the Shaanxi Provincial Museum. In 1982, the 7th Exhibition Hall of the Steles was established. Collections of Steles have been increased from 667 in the Qing Dynasty to over 2,000 steles, of which over 1,000 are open to the public. Seven exhibition halls, a pavilion covered with steles and six corridors for keeping epitaphs form a complete architectural complex of a unique style, making the Steles, a treasure trove of the art of calligraphy look all the more magnificent.
What attracts people most is that the Steles has gathered the famous works of many outstanding calligraphers handed down from ancient times. Chinese calligraphy has a long history, and in general has evolved from the complex to the simple. It has five basic script forms, namely: seal script, clerical script, regular script, running script and cursive script. Through more than 5,000 years of creative work and development these various forms have constituted the abundant treasure and unique traditions of the art of Chinese calligraphy. For example, the Cao Quan Stele, written in Han clerical script in the 2nd year of Zhongping ( 185 AD) in the Eastern Han Dynasty, is famous for its elegant, ingenious and clear inscription, as well as its completeness.The Tang Dynasty witnessed the prosperous period of our art of calligraphy. Ouyang Xun, Yu Shinan,Zhu Suiliang, Yan Zhenqing and Liu Gongquan developed their own distinctive styles of regular script, while Ouyang Tong, Xu Hao, Shi Weize, Huai Su, Zhang Xu and Li Yangbing were celebrated calligraphers of different script forms. The most distinguished Tang stele is "the Preface to the Holy Buddhist Scriptures" in the handwriting of Wang Xizhi, a famous Jin calligrapher. The valuable poems and works of calligraphy of such famous post-Tang calligraphers as Su Shi, Huang Tingjian, Mi Fei, Zhao Mengfu, Dong Qichang and Zhu Yongming are also collected in the Steles.
Many inscriptions in the Steles are of precious historical value, such as the world-famous Nestorian Stele and Monk Bu Kong Stele. Gathered here are also some carved sketches with exquisite and splendid decorative designs, making the Steles, the art treasure-house, all the more brilliant and well-known far and near.
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