The Museum of Forest of Stone Tablets in Xi'an (the former Shaanxi Provincial Museum), a courtyard-styled structure, is situated at the site of the Confucian Temple in Sanxue Street, Xi'an. It was originally the Imperial Ancestral Temple of the Tang Dynasty and later became the Confucian Temple in the Song Dynasty. In 1950, it was extended into the museum as we see today. One may wonder why the structure here differs from other Chinese temples in that its two gates are facing east and west respectively, instead of the traditional southern
direction. As a matter of fact, all temples are opened on both the east and west sides. One gate is referred to as the gate of courtesy, and the other is that of righteousness.
The structure here is called pailou (decorated archway ) which is derived from paifang of ancient times. It is for decoration. This kind of structure could be seen almost everywhere in ancient China' set up to hold a particular person in honour.
In the eastern pavilion within the second gate is exhibited the Jingyun Bell. This bell was cast in the second reign of Jingyun (711 A. D. ), hence the name. The bell was originally hung on the Bell Tower of Jinglong Taoist Temple (in the West Street today). It is said that when the bell was struck daily, the clear and beautiful sound could be heard all over the city. The bell weighs six tons and is made of 5000 kilograms of bronze with 25 pieces of bronze casting moulds. There are inscriptions of 292 Chinese characters in 18 lines. This epigraph was composed and written by Emperor Rui Zong(Li Dan) in the Tang Dynasty. It is about the mystery of Taoism and praise of the bell. The bell has 32 nipples which are used for decoration and tune adjustment. At the Bell Exhibition in 1964, this bell was listed as world famous. On New Year's Eve (Chinese lunar new year )very year, the "new year's bell" played on Central People's Broadcasting Station in "seeing off the old year and welcoming the new year" is recorded from the Jingyun Bell. The bell on the Telephone and Telegraph Building in the North Street strikes hour every
hour with that clear and sweet sound to the whole city. The sound also comes from the recording of the Jingyun Bell.
In the west pavilion there is a stone horse, carved in 424 A. D., the Daxia Period. The horse is simple carved, vivid and true to life. Between the hind legs is carved an image of the conquered. Daxia was a nation established by the Hun nobles, one of the 16 states in the Eastern Jin Period. Most of these 16 states were separatist regimes set up by the members of upper-class strata of the minority nationalities. Because of the constant wars, every state only ruled for a short time and left very few relics, so this stone horse appears to be the most valuable.
The Museum of Forest of Stone Tablets in Xl'an covers an area of 30,000 square metres or more. The exhibition areas can be divided into two sections: Xl'an Forest of Stone Tablets (Beilin) and stone sculptures. In addition, relics exhibitions are often held on special subjects here in the museum.
Photos of Xi'an Moseum of Stone Forest
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