The Forest of Steles Museum (also called the Stele Forest or Beilin Museum) is a themed museum displaying Chinese stone steles, epigraphs and stone sculptures from past dynasties. Originally built in 1087, the Forest of Steles is China’s national treasure housing a large collection of the stone tablets throughout the history. The amount of exhibits is over 3,000 pieces which range from the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD) to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). As the huge collection looks like a thick forest, it is named as Forest of Steles.
Why the Forest of Steles is special
A historic stele tablet is the integration of painting, carving, calligraphy and culture. The significance of the Forest of Steles lies in they are precious materials for the study of fine painting, calligraphy and carving skills in ancient China and for studying the history of religion in China and ancient Sino-foreign exchanges.
Forest of Steles Highlights
Compared with other museums, one of the outstanding characteristics of Forest of Steles Museum is the large collection of inscribed tablets. Tablet inscriptions tell 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.
Classics on Filial Piety (Shitai Xiaojing Steles)
Classic of Filial Piety room is the most precious collection in the museum. The major exhibits in this room are the Kaicheng Classics, carved in 837 AD during the Tang Dynasty. This is a group of stone tablets inscribed 12 books. Ancient Chinese people carved such books in stone to prevent copying errors and thereby provided models by which students could check the accuracy of reproduced texts. The Kaicheng Classics are the best preserved set of classics on stones in China.
Stone sculpture art galleries
On the either side of the total seven exhibition rooms are two sculpture galleries. The one to the east recorded the development of Buddhism in Chang’an (now known as Xian). About 150 stone Buddhist statues from North Wei Dynasty (386 - 557) to Song Dynasty are on display there. These Buddhist exhibits are in two categories, Buddhist statues and Buddhist images carved on the stone tablets.
Poems written by ancient celebrities
In the sixth exhibition room visitors could have a chance to see some poems carved on the stone, the poems were written by Chinese ancient celebrities, including poets, emperors, and artists. You can even see stone steles written by Emperor Kangxi, the fourth Qing Dynasty emperor, and Lin Zexu, a national hero of the Qing Dynasty.