Forest of Stone Steles Museum

Written by Ruru Zhou Updated Sep. 1, 2021

Known as the largest and most spectacular “stone-book warehouse”, the Forest of Stone Steles Museum in Xian is a treasure house of calligraphic arts, in which visitors can fully experience the charm of Chinese culture especially the penmanship.

It is a fascinating symbol of Xian’s long history and traditional culture and the best place to have a comprehensive learning of China’s calligraphy arts.

What to See

The whole museum is consisted of 3 parts: Confucian Temple, Forest of Steles, and the Lithography Room. More than 11,000 historical relics of Han, Wei, Sui, Tang, Yuan, Ming, Qing dynasties are housing in the museum, and the area for exhibition is more than 4,900 square meters.

There are 6 galleries, 7 showrooms and 8 stele pavilions set for the tourists, countless cultural relics and calligraphic arts are presented. You can fully immerse yourselves in the world of treasures.

It is OK if you are not an expert of calligraphy or stone inscription, visitors can take a leisurely stroll along the showrooms to feel the tranquility and beauty of Chinese culture. The museum won’t let you down.

The Confucian Temple

As an important part of the museum, the Confucian Temple was first built in 1087, late years of Song Dynasty.

It reserves most architectures and buildings of Ming and Qing Dynasty style, which contains grand arches, classic Pan-chi(泮池: unique structure and name of ancient pond ) and majestic Gates of Lingxing and Ji.

The Confucian Temple also puts visitors in touch with Xian’s lesser known, but equally classic and elegant side. Er Wu(二庑: room at the side of or facing the principle rooms), was once the residence of the 72 disciples of Confucius, and now is for people to do fetes and memorial activities.

There was an interesting story about the Pan-chi of Confucian Temple -- it’s said that the Pan-chi represented etiquette and expectations, only the No.1 Scholar or the champion was able to cross the Pan-bridge.

Forest of Steles

The Forest of Steles is very popular with tourists who are interested in Chinese traditional calligraphy arts. 7 big showrooms are here for you to appreciate, and different cultural treasures are placed in different rooms.

For example, in the 1st Showroom are some of the famous works of the calligraphers of ancient China, such as Liu Gongquan(柳公权), Huai Su(怀素), Ouyang Xun(欧阳询), etc. Most of them were from the Tang Dynasty.

Some of the stone steles are used for recording history and events, like building temples and digging canals and etc. the 5th Showroom is a good example. There you can get close look at adequate materials of studying local history. 

The Lithography Room

The Lithography Room also divided into two parts:

Stone inscription of mausoleum:

In ancient times in China, elaborate funeral rituals prevailed among the imperial and the noblemen. Therefore the mausoleum inscription was in vogue at that time.

A world famous art in the mausoleum inscription filed is “Six Steeds of Zhao Mausoleum”, which vividly carved six steeds of the Emperor of Tang Dynasty, each of which is about 2 meters wide and 1.7 meters high.

Each steed represented a period of history, which led people to recall the stories of the emperor fighting on the battle fields. However, it is said that 2 of the 6 were replicas, because in 1914 two of them were smashed and put into boxes then transported to America. Now the authentic works are enshrined in Pennsylvania Museum.

Buddhist Statues

Since East Han Dynasty, Xian (it was called Chang’an at that time) was the center of Buddhism, so it is no strange there are so many Buddhist statues reserved in this museum.
This is not only about religion, but about art. While going through those sacred statuses, you will feel the power of belief and be amazed about these most exquisite and spectacular works.

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