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Forest of Stone Tablets

The Museum of  Forest of Stone Tablets

The museum of the forest of stone tablets is located at the Confucius Temple in the right center of Xi'an city. The site was originally the ancestral temple in the Tang dynasty and later became the Confucius temple in the Song. The museum covers an area of 3,000 ㎡, and it can be divided into two sections, the forest of stone tablets and the exhibition room of stone carvings.
Ⅰ Forest of Stone Tablets
The forest of stone tablets was founded in 1087.With over 3,000 stone tablets standing like trees in a forest; the place got the name “Forest of Stone Tablets”. Now the exhibition is not only a treasure house of Chinese calligraphy art but a collection of very valuable historical historic records.
Different from the gates of Buddhist temples in China, which are usually facing the south, the entrance of Confucius temples are all facing the east and the west. The eastern gate is called as the gate of rites and the gate in the west, the gate of righteousness.
The typical Chinese construction in front of us is called as “Wooden Memorial Arch”. In the ancient times wooden memorial arches were built on the order of the emperors to honor a distinguished person. Later it became landmarks in temple areas or imperial places.
Over the northern side of the wooden memorial arch is the Crescent-shaped Pool where the candidates who had succeeded in the imperial examinations washed their brushes.
The three stones gates here are the main entrance leading people to the museum. The gates are named after one of the 28 Gods of star, “Ling Xing”, who is in charge of selecting officials according to Chinese theory. In the ancient times only the high officials could enter through the central gate.
Here we see the Jin Yun Bell. The bell was cast in the second reign of Jun yun of the Tang dynasty. It weighs six tons. On the Eve of Chinese lunar new year, the “New Year’s Bell” played on the central People’s Broadcasting Station in “seeing off the old year and welcoming the New Year” is recorded from the Jin Yun Bell.
Opposite the Jin Yun Bell is the famous stone horse of Da Xia dynasty. Da Xia was the last sovereign established by the Huns in 418 AD. The horse itself was carved out of one huge stone and was erected in front of the tomb of the Prince. The sovereign lasted a very short period of time and this stone horse is one of the very few relics we have now belonging to this period of time.
Here we can see altogether 7 tablet pavilions carved to praise the military achievements of the Emperor Kang Xi and the Emperor Qian Long in the Qing dynasty.
In front of the first exhibition room is the Tablet Pavilion specially built for the Classic of Filial Piety. The Classic of Filial Piety was compiled by Zeng Seng, a disciple of Confucius, after attending Confucius lectures. The tablet was engraved in 745AD in the handwriting of LI Longji, the seventh emperor of the Tang dynasty. He wrote a preface to the classic to show his wish to administrate the country by advocating the principles of Filial Piety.
The first exhibition room consists of the 12 Confucius Classics carved during the Kai Cheng Period of the Tang dynasty. At that time, coping was more common than printing. And then the doctrine of Confucius and Mencius were the required readings for the intellectuals to pass the feudal examinations. SO in order to prevent copying errors, they carved the classics on stone tablets. Later in Qing Dynasty one more classic of Mencius was engraved and added to, as we see today.
The second exhibition room keeps the most famous specimens of the Tang calligraphy and the great historical tablets that show us the cultural exchanges between China and the other foreign countries. In the prosperous Tang dynasty, with the imperial advocacy, calligraphy became a very important standard for the government to select officials. Calligraphy became a fashion. The first and the last tablet here we can see are typical examples of so called “Yan Style”. The work was done by Yan Zhenqing in the Tang dynasty. He combined the style of the official script that was popular in the Han dynasty and the small seal script used in the Qin dynasty together, and created a new style that looks plump, smooth, powerful, vigorous and elegant. Each of his character would look like a strong lion sitting on the ground. His calligraphy has always been used as specimens ever since. And the third tablet here shows us the work of Liu Gongquan in the late Tang dynasty. Later Chinese people use “the Muscle of Yan and the Bones of Liu” to describe the highest achievements of these two Tang calligraphers. The writings on the 6th tablet were compiled by a monk in Tang dynasty. He selected all the characters from the handwriting of Wang Xizhi and then filled them in the composition. So this tablet provides us the most complete records for the calligraphers to study Wang’s calligraphy. The 7th tablet is the well-know tablet of Nestorian. The words on the very top read “The Popularity of Jing Religion of Da Qin Empire in China”. Da Qin was the name that the Chinese people called the Roman Empire in the ancient times and the Jing religion was one sect of Christian religion named as Nestorianism. It was engraved in Syrian characters the spreading of Nestorianism, and its essence, ceremony and the activities of the missionaries in China as well as the political and cultural exchanges between China and the other countries.
From the third exhibition room one can see the development of Chinese calligraphy. Chinese written characters originated from the inscriptions carved on the bones of the animals or the shells of the tortoise 3,000 years ago. Then it experienced 6stages of development, namely big seal, small seal, official script, regular script, running hand and cursive hand. The second tablet carved in official script was originally erected in front of the tomb of an official in the Han dynasty. Official script derived from slave’s drawings with sticks and became very popular in the Han dynasty. The evolution from small seal to official style is a revolution of Chinese characters in their forms. (The 4th tablet was carved in the cursive hand of Zhang Xu in the Tang dynasty)
The 4th exhibition room has not only calligraphy works but paintings as well. The painting of Tai Bai Mountain, the bamboo painting with poem hidden and the portrait of Confucius are all of great value.
The 5th, 6th, 7th exhibition rooms have a collection of stone tablets carved in Song, Yuan, Ming, and Qing dynasties. It was mainly recorded the process of big social projects and natural disasters. Now they serve as very valuable historical records for us to study about the politics, economy, cultural, social customs as well as calligraphy.
Ⅱ Stone Carvings
In this museum has over 70 representative pieces of stone carvings chosen from the masterpieces of the Han and the Tang dynasties. The stone carvings of Han are vigorous and simple while the ones from Tang are fine and mellow. They are arranged in a chronological order and can be divided into two sections: monumental stone sculptures and religious stone statues.
Here is a picture of cattle farming carved on the tombstones of the eastern Han dynasty. This is our first discovery of the tillage machinery in this period of time.
On the tomb gate of Li Shou, a duke in Tang, were carved the four Gods of directions, namely, blue dragon, white tiger, scarlet bird and so called “Xuan Wu”, a tortoise with a snake on its back. They were also used to dispel evil spirits. Besides, there are also stone carvings of officials, generals, musicians, dancing ladies as well as kinds of musical instruments. The carving of the different kinds of musical instruments proves that ever since the Tang dynasty China has got comparatively complete symphony system.
The stone rhino was originally placed in front of the Tang emperor Gao Zu’s tomb as a contribute from the other countries to the Tang dynasty. It was carved out of one huge stone, weighing 10 tons. It is the witness of the friendship between China and the other foreign countries.
After the stone rhino, we can see the famous six steeds of Zhao Ling. They were painted and by the most famous painter Yan Liben in the Tang dynasty and ordered to be carved in relief in memory of Emperor Tai Zong’s six war steeds. They had been guarding the emperor’s tomb for over 1,200 years until 1914. Two of them were broken and taken out of China. Now they are exhibited in the museum of the University of Pennsylvania.
The statue of Li Er is a typical religious statue of the Han dynasty. Li Er was the founder of Daoism who was a contemporary of Confucius. It is said that the statue was most probably made by Yuan Jia'er, a famous sculptor from the western regions.(Written by Lindy Gao Xiao Hong)



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Attractions of Xian

  1. Foping Nature Reserve for Giant Pandas
  2. Xian Ox Culture and Ceramics Museum
  3. North Square of Big Wild Goose Pagoda
  4. Changqing Nature Reserve
  5. Tang Dynasty Dinner and Show
  6. Chenlu Ancient Town
  7. Maoxian
  8. Xian
  9. Zhaoling Mausoleum
  10. Yong Le Gong Temple
  11. Qianling Mausoleum
  12. Mausoleum of Yellow Emperor
  13. Han Yangling Mausoleum
  14. Shaanxi Foping National Reserve
  15. Famen Temple
  16. Xian Ancient City Wall
  17. Shaanxi History Museum-II
  18. Bell & Drum Towers
  19. Banpo Museum
  20. Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses
  21. Shaanxi Grand Theater
  22. Peasant Painting Exhibition Hall in Huxian
  23. Huxian Farmer's painting
  24. Tang Dynasty Art Museum
  25. Great Mosque
  26. Hui Nationality
  27. Islamic Religion
  28. Qianling Mausoleum
  29. Hukou Waterfalls
  30. Yan'an Pagoda
  31. Shaanxi Delicacy
  32. City God Temple in Sanyuan
  33. Xingqing Palace
  34. Daming Palace
  35. Blue Dragon Temple
  36. Feiyuan Museum
  37. Mount Hua
  38. Shaanxi History Museum
  39. Anwu Village
  40. Welcome Ceremony at the Ancient City Wall
  41. Luoguantai Shrine
  42. Han Maoling Mausoleum
  43. Han Yangling Tomb
  44. Yao Zhou Kiln Museum
  45. Qujiang Pool
  46. Xian Museum
  47. Xian High Tech Industries Development Zone
  48. The Silk Road
  49. Small Wild Goose Pagoda
  50. Forest of Stone Tablets
  51. Mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi
  52. Xianyang
  53. Fuping Ceramic Art Village and Fule International Ceramic Art Museum
  54. Huaqing Hot Springs
  55. Banpo Village Museum
  56. Han Changling Mausoleum
  57. Big Wild Goose Pagoda
  58. Daming Palace National Heritage Park
  59. All Day Mall of the Great Tang Dynasty
  60. International Horticulture Exposition 2011 Xian
  61. Drum Tower
  62. Bell Tower
  63. Xingjiao Temple
  64. Bell Tower
  65. Mt.Hua
  66. Pit No.3 of Terra Cotta Army
  67. Pit No.2 of Terra Cotta Army
  68. Pit No.1 of Terra Cotta Army
  69. Dim Sum Delicacy
  70. Tomb of Princess Yongtai
  71. Bronze Chariots and Horses
  72. Tang Paradise

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