Thursday, December 17, 2009

Stone Drum Inscriptions 石鼓文

Ten ‘Stone Drums’ were discovered in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) at Tianxing (present-day Baoji in Shaanxi Province) and caused a stir among men of letters and calligraphers. It is believed that they were engraved in the state of Qin during the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) and are therefore well over 2,000 years old. They are said to be the very first pieces of inscription works found in China up to now.
At the time when they were discovered in the seventh century, each of them bore a four-character verse about the hunting of the Duke of Qin. Not many of its original 700 characters have survived - 465 of them were recorded then and 272 of them today with one block completely denuded.
Before the invention of paper and printing, the best way in China to keep outstanding writings and calligraphic works was to carve them on stone. Those cut on drum shaped blocks are called shiguwen (stone drum inscriptions); and those cut on steles and tablets are called beiwen.
The rubbing shown is the only one survived with a complete verse.

My chariots were complete;
My horses were harnessed.
My chariots were gaily decorated;
My horses were thriving.
The officials gathered in force;
The banners waved in the wind.

Deer left footprints behind,
By which we pursued.
Bows were drawn;
Arrows were at the string.

I ran into a royal stag,
Which galloping, clip-clop.
He charged at me,
Raising quite a dust.

The herd rushed off,
Running out of sight.
I chased a lone buck,
But he, too, escaped.
Finally I shot a sorrel.


吾車既工。吾馬既同。吾車既好。吾馬既(馬缶) 。君子員邋。員邋員斿。
麀鹿趚趚。其來大●。吾敺其樸。其來(走賣)(走賣)。射其(豕肩) 蜀。

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