Culture >Museum
Forest of Stele Museum of Xi’an

The Forest of Stele Museum of Xi'an is a museum designed to collect and study the epitaph and other ancient stone carving arts in China. It has its name since it gathers the exquisite stele arts in ancient China and makes the numerous steles like the "forest of steles". The stele forest houses rich epitaphs engraved on the steles, stone carving art, and part of remnants of the ancient buildings of the temple.

Forest of Stone Steles Museum

The Forest of Stone Steles Museum is also called the Steles Forest or Beilin Museum, is a themed museum focusing on displays of stone steles, epigraphs and stone sculptures from past dynasties. Its location is on Sanxue Street, inside the Wenchang Gate of the Xian City Wall. Its construction is based on Xian Confucius Temple dating from 1087 during the North Song Dynasty (960 – 1127). The museum was built to preserve the Kaicheng Classics (a group of stone tablets) and the Filial Piety Classics. The collection has grown and now includes 11,000 relics, including three thousand stone steles or epigraphs that are housed in seven separate exhibition rooms. Among these many precious relics, there are 19 groups deemed to be national treasures that the visitor should not fail to see. National Treasures in Forest of Stone Steles Museum Compared with other museums, the outstanding characteristic of the Forest of Stone Steles Museum is its collection of inscribed tablets. Tablet inscriptions tell us about the religions, life styles and historical facts of ancient times in a vivid way. They provide tourists with a grasp of the general outline of Chinese history and the interaction of China and other countries. For the fans of Chinese calligraphy, these inscriptions are of great interest as they are fine examples of the diverse styles of Chinese characters. The museum is divided into two parts by the Halberd Gate, with the old constructions in the Confucius Temple in front and the exhibition rooms at the back. Upon arrival, the site of the Confucius Temple, including the screen wall, memorial archway and the Lingxing Gates, is before you. Through the Halberd Gate, two separate pavilions are arranged one on either side, with a stone horse of Daxia State (a minority ethnic state from 407 to 431) on the north side and a bell made in Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) on the south. The stone horse is a national treasure as it is rare and in the style of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD). As you go forward you pass by six pavilions and several temporary exhibition rooms arranged along a narrow path. At present, all these pavilions are closed to the public. At the end of this path there is a pavilion where the Stone Tablet of Classic Filial Piety is displayed. This was carved during the Tang Dynasty and bears inscription of dialogues between Confucius and his students.

Forest of Stele Museum

Xi'an's Stele Forest (Bei Lin) Museum is located at 15 Sanxue (Three School) Street, near the south gate of the City Wall. Established in 1090 during the Northern Song Dynasty (960 – 1279), the Stele Forest Museum in Xi'an is well-known nationally for a fine and large collection of more than 1, 000 inscribed stones, engraved during a 2,000 year period from the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) to the Qing Dynasty (1644 – 1911). It is a good place to get close to Chinese history and culture. The museum, covering an area of 31,000 square meters is divided into seven major exhibition halls, which mainly display ancient works of calligraphy, historical records and stone carvings. forest of stele museumA stone lion in Forest of Stele Museum. Exhibition Hall One mainly displays the text of twelve Confucian classics carved on 14 steles. The twelve works include the Analects of Confucius, the Books of Changes, the Books of Songs and some others. These twelve classics are must-do readings for intellectuals of China's feudal society. The stones were engraved over 2,000 years ago when printing was not yet invented. In order to preserve these works well and pass them down to later generations, the rulers ordered them to be carved on these stones. Hall Two exhibits calligraphy steles written by the prominent calligraphers of China's ancient Tang Dynasty (618 – 907). The Tang Dynasty witnessed a flowering of creativity in many fields. Chinese classic calligraphy reached its golden age during this time. Visitors will find works of Ouyang Xun, Yan Zhenqing, Zhang Xu and many other noted ancient calligraphers in this hall. Hall Three also exhibits works of calligraphy. These steles were inscribed with five varieties of calligraphy, seal characters, official script, regular script, running hand and cursive hand.

Xi’an Forest of Stone Steles Museum

This photograph is taken inside the Forest of Steles Museum in Xi’an, China. A man is looking at rows of stone steles that contain historic inscriptions carved over many centuries and preserved here. The history of the collection begins in the Tang dynasty (618-906) when various emperors began to order copies of famous works of literature to be engraved on stone, partly for preservation and security, because works on paper could easily be lost or destroyed. Written records had been committed to stone and bronze before, but not systematically collected. For students learning the classics, the stone steles functioned like libraries. Copies could be made of individual works by placing moist paper against the stone and then dabbing the stone with an ink-soaked pad of silk filled with cotton. In some cases, these ink rubbings are all that remain of some stones that have been lost or destroyed. During the Song dynasty (960-1279), the present Confucian temple that houses the collection was built and the first stone stele was moved inside. This is a typical practice in many Confucian temples where walls are filled with memorial stones and stone inscriptions. The present Stele Museum is one of the largest of its kind in East Asia.

Knowledge Graph

1 The Stele Forest, or Xi'an Beilin Museum (碑林; pinyin: Bēilín), is a museum for steles and stone sculptures which is located in Xi'an, China.

2 The Stele Forest began with the Kaicheng Shi Jing Steles (开成石经碑) and Shitai Xiao Jing Steles (石台孝经碑), two groups of steles both carved in the Tang dynasty and displayed in the temple to Confucius in Chang'an.

3 In 1936, famous Chinese calligrapher Yu Youren donated his entire collection of more than three hundred rubbings from Stele to the Xian Forest of Stele Museum.