Beilin Museum (Confucius Temple)
While its historical value is undeniable, the Forest of Steles (Beilin) Museum might be a little dull for most foreigners. The museum is housed in a former Confucian Temple, which was originally built in the Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127), though the present buildings date mainly from the Qing Dynasty. But what makes the place famous is its massive collection of ancient stone tablets displayed across a number of pavilions, which date back as far as the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). The first tablet was sent to the temple for safekeeping in 1087 AD, and the collection grew steadily over the centuries. The “Filial Piety Classic” engraved by Emperor Xuanzong in 745, takes pride of place with its own pagoda in front of the tablet pavilions while another highlight of the 3000 strong stele collection is the “Kaicheng Stone Classics” (837) which feature 13 classic works written on 114 steles. The Nestorian Stele (781), documenting the arrival of the Christian sect in China, is another popular tablet, significant for the information it gives about China’s contact with foreign countries. While there are English explanations of the most important steles and anyone can appreciate the beauty of the calligraphy, it’s difficult to take a huge interest in the tablets without being able to read them.
Probably of more interest to foreign visitors is the collection of stone carvings, housed in a nearby building. The remarkable and beautiful sculptures on display here include coffins and tomb ornaments dating back as far as the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-25AD). This relatively small assembly of around 100 sculptures is worth the price of admission by itself.
Admission: ¥45. Open: 8:00-18:00.
Address: 15 Sanxue Jie. Tel: +86 (029) 8721 0764. Website: www.blmuseum.com
Directions: Beilin Museum is just west off Baishulin Lu, where it meets the southern city wall. You can also get there by following the alleys east from the South Gate.
Show the taxi driver: 请带我去碑林, 谢谢。 (Please take me to the Beilin Museum. Thank you.)