Museum of stone steles - Beilin in the Temple of Confucius
The Forest of Stone Steles Museum is a repository of ancient Chinese history
Near the southern gate of the Xian city wall, there is the Xian Forest of Stone Steles Museum or, as it is also called, the Museum of Stone Steles - Beilin. Once, this museum used to be the Temple of Confucius, built in honor of the opening of the Nestorian Church in Chang'an. Today it houses artifacts relating mainly to the history of the Silk Road.
This museum, the pride of the Xian residents, was founded in 1078 during the reign of the Song Dynasty (960-1279). Its first exhibits included 114 commemorative steles, which, during the reign of Emperor Wenzong of the Tang Dynasty, immortalized "The Twelve Canons" of the Confucian teachings. Among them there are excerpts from the Analects of Confucius, Book of Songs, Book of Changes, and his other philosophical works. These works were the Chinese classics of that time to be read by everyone, who committed to spirit and mind training. Since book printing business had not been yet invented by that time, the sayings of the canons were applied to stone slabs - the stele, to convey the age-old wisdom to the next generations.
It should be noted that steles were widely used in ancient China. They were erected by emperors and temples. The most important of them were erected on the backs of stone turtles, called "Guifu" or "Bisi". But let us go back to the museum and its unique collection.
Over the following few centuries, the collection of the Forest of Stone Steles Museum was gradually replenished with other stone tablets of a particular cultural and historical value. Today the Museum of Stone Steles, on its territory of 31,000 square meters, numbers 7,000 artifacts. Its galleries display only a part of the collection - a little more than a thousand steles created beginning from the VIII century of Chinese history. In addition to "The Twelve Canons," the most valuable museum tablets include the reliefs that decorated the walls of the Emperor Taizong Mausoleum and Nestorian Stele of 781, with a carved message about the successful missionary mission of the Assyrian Church of the East in China of the Tang era. On top of this stele you will see a Christian cross, twined around by a Chinese dragon.
The 7 exhibition halls of the Forest of Stone Steles Museum have also a stele with samples of ancient calligraphic art, historical documents and excerpts from the works of Chinese literature.
Since 1962, the Museum of stone steles is included in the list of critical and protected cultural and historical landmarks of China.