united nations - concept

forest of stone steles retranslation & rewriting of tang poetry
historical reference


an installation, designed in new york, usa, produced in wenda gu's stone carving studio in xi'an city, china 1993 – 2005

forest of stone steles - retranslation & rewriting tang poetry consists of 50 hand carved stone steles, each measuring  110cm x 190cm x 20cm (75 " long  x 43.5" wide  x 8 " thick ) and weighin 1.3 tonnes each.

historical reference of stone steles 1:    there are many stone steles in china's history. the most splendid examples are the forest of stone steles (碑林 bei lin),  located in sanxue street in xi'an city, which is a magnificant museum abundant with historical facts and epic stories of chinese civilization.  it concentrates on history, culture, art and technology as a whole, and is famous as a treasure house of calligraphic art.  

when han jian built chang'an city, he moved the kai cheng stone scripture there.  a northern song dynasty high official, yu ce, removed the tang dynasty and other stone steles  of  kai cheng stone scripture to the location where the current forest of stone steles museum stands. from the han dynasty to early in the last century, yu ce constructed large-scale buildings and extended the stele collection during the middle of the ming dynasty into more than 1000 pieces of ancient stone steles. these not only functioned as tombstones, but also were highly regarded as one of the most developed artistic forms in chinese art history.  there remain many precious stone steles which have recorded the calligraphy of huang xizhi, yan zhengqing, liu gongquan and yu youren etc.... as well as recorded important political and cultural moments in china's various ancient periods.

historical reference of stone steles 2:    since xi'an city was the capital of six ancient dynasties, the forest of stone tablets is a concentrated recording of the most authentic historical calligraphy, including examples of all the script styles such as: seal, running, official and standard scripts.  after the yuan dynasty, when chinese rice paper was invented, the chinese people created the technique of producing numerous copies of the caligraphy by making ink rubbings from the stone engravings. the ink rubbings on rice paper, made from the engraved stones, were mounted as scroll paintings and bound as books. consequently, through dynasties and generations, the chinese have used these ink rubbings as books to learn about their history and culture. although the most ancient and original calligraphic hand scripts have been lost, these fine engraved stones are still in existence.  therefore, they are extremely valuable to archaeologists, historians, artists, etc. who study and seek to reveal the truths of china's history and culture.  even though some original calligraphy and hand scripts are in museums today, there are few samples and they do not represent the full extent of the masters' work as seen in the steles. even though modern printing techniques reproduce good copies, only the ink rubbings are able to portray the original sense of the art, and therefore remain a valuable and collectable art form.  

historical reference of stone tablets 3:    not only was stone engraving popular in ancient times, but it is also popular today.  one tombstone in particular, stands out from china's most famous engraved stones;  it is called the wordless tablet.  this blank tombstone of the tang dynasty's empress, wu zetian, the most powerful woman in china's history, was done several hundred years b.c. and demonstrates her endless ambition and will.  wu's tombstone is a unique and an outstanding conceptual piece as well as a statement of her power; it remains a vanguard in the world of art even today!  the wordless stone tablet became a popular solution for the feudal bureaucrats in the ming and qing dynasties who, simply because of the difficulties and conflicts of their times, were at a loss to come up with inscriptions which would represent their lifetime achievements.