Chapter XI Stele and Rubbings
Section I   An Overview of Stele and Rubbings
 
Stele and rubbings in general refers to models made by way of rubbing, printing, copying and photo-copying for the use of learners.
Stele (in Chinese that reads béi) originated in the Zhou Dynasty when erected before a temple or palace to watch how the sun moved, later it was erected at the entrance to a tomb with characters to memorize the deeds and merits of the deceased. Since these inscriptions were intended for later generations, they were written by famous calligraphers of the time. It was calculated by some Qing Dynasty scholars that till their time there were more than 10,000 steles found and collected.
Before paper was invented, characters were written on bamboo and wood slips or on cloth or silk. Those written on bamboo or wood slips were called “Jian——Jin) and those on cloth or silk were called “Tie——Te). We now refer to all calligraphy carvings and their rubbings as “Tie”. Since there is no equivalent in English of this word, and since it is after all rubbings, we use “rubbings” for the word “Tie”.
 
Section II   Kinds of Stele
 
1.   Stone carving, which is older than stele, like Taishan Stone Carving we mentioned before;
2.   Cliffside carving, like “Eulogy to the Stone Gate” we mentioned before;
3.   Stele actually breaks into square top and round top tablets, the square topped ones are called “Béi-” and the round topped ones are called “Jíe-”. In ancient China officials had 7 ranks, those above the 5th rank could use “Bei” after their death and those under could only use “Jie”.
4.   Epitaph, usually burried stone tablet, because Cao Cao of the Three-Kingdoms abandoned the use of stele, and Wei and Jin dynasties followe suit, people could only burry inscripted stone tablet inside the tomb.
5.   Sutra on stone, before printing technique was invented, to preserve Confucian, Buhhdist and Taoist doctrines people carved the texts on stones.
6.   Notes to figure sculpture recorded reasons for the sculpture. So far there have been over 2,000 pieces of this kind.
 
Section III   Kinds of Rubbings
 
The purpose of producing rubbings is to disseminate calligraphical works that have been carved on stones. Then putting paper over them and rubbing with black ink, and then have them mounted and bound them together into a book for imitation or appreciation.
The ancestor of all bound rubbings is chún huà g te—Collected Rubbings by Chunhua Pavillion, which was produced in the third year of the reign of Chunhua (992) of Song Dynasty, and is consisted of 10 volumns, the first 5 were works of Wang Xizhi and Wang Xianzhi, the rest were works by emperors, famous ministers and calligraphers in various dynasties. Yet, within 100 years, people could hardly find any copies of the original rubbings.
Such rubbing was very developed in Ming and Qing dynasties, the most famous one is ϣ sn x táng te—Rubbings of the Hall of Three Treasures, which is in 32 volums and collected 340 pieces by 134 calligraphers, of course the three treasures we mentioned before are among them.
Aside from collected rubbings, there are also single piece rubbing, for instance, Prelude to Orchid Pavillionby Wang Xizhi.
 
Section IV   Difference between Bei and Tie
 
1.   Different function: Bei has been intended to record family history, deeds and merits of the deceased or for sacrifice while Tie is a reproduction of works by famous calligraphers for learners.
2.   Different content: Bei contains deeds and merits of the deceased while Tie could contain anything that was written by a master calligrapher.
3.   Different genres: seal, clerical and regular scripts are typical for Bei with very small amount of free hand and cursive scripts used while for Tie free hand, cursive and minor regular scripts have been often used.
4.   Different forms: Bei used to be vertical rectangles and sometimes has carvings on the four sides, yet the stone to be used for rubbings is usually horizontal, not very high and has carvings only on the front side.
5.   Different ways of writing on the stone: to carve on a Bei, the characters used to be written with red ink; to make rubbings the outlines of characters in the authentic piece used to be marked on the stone.
6.   Different ways of carving: to carve on Bei the carver is allowed to have his own interpretations while to carve for rubbings, the carver has to be loyal to the original.
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