East Asia, China, ca. third quarter of 20th century CE. A pair of beautiful rubbings of original temple carvings, one depicting a temple scene and the other depicting a paradise scene - featuring the imagined celestial realm occupied by deities and Bodhisattvas. Handmade rubbings have served to preserve China's visual culture and history for over 1500 years. They are created by pressing sheets of wet handmade paper into stone carvings and then carefully inking the surface to create an image. The black ink field surrounds the white impressions. Given the wear and deterioration to cherished stone monuments, such rubbings are oftentimes the only means of preserving China's heritage. Size of larger rubbing: 40.5" W x 20.25" H (102.9 cm x 51.4 cm) Size of frame: 44.375" W x 23.5" H (112.7 cm x 59.7 cm)
According to the Field Museum of Chicago, Illinois, "Although there are no precise records regarding the origins of rubbings, rubbings were being made of stone inscriptions of classic Confucian, Buddhist, and Daoist texts for scholarly and religious use soon after the invention of paper by around 100 A.D. (attributed to an official of the imperial court named Cai Lun, although recent archaeological discoveries indicate this probably took place a century earlier). The earliest known Chinese rubbings date to between 627 and 649 A.D. during the Tang Dynasty, and the collection of rubbings as an important cultural practice was recorded as early as the Five Dynasties period (907–960 A.D.).
In the Song Dynasty (960–1279 A.D.), jin shi xue ("the study of metal and stone") became popular, propelling the production of ever more refined rubbings of bronze and stone artifacts such as monuments or engraved stelae. In fact, the earliest extant rubbings catalogue is attributed to Ouyang Xiu (1007–1072 A.D.), a prominent Song Dynasty scholar and poet as well as an important collector and cataloger of stelae inscriptions, who collected some 1,000 rolls of ink rubbings. An even more extensive early collection was acquired by Zhao Mingcheng (1081–1129 A.D.), whose Jin Shi Lu (Record of Bronze and Stone Inscriptions), contains rubbings of 1,900 stone inscriptions. Northern Song Dynasty (960–1127 A.D.) writers also often mention rubbings as important commercial items that were sold by traveling merchants at high prices.
By the time of the Qing Dynasty (1644–1911), antiquarian studies were a major tenet of the Chinese scholastic tradition, resulting in the widespread production and collection of rubbings. These rubbings were highly valued as faithful reproductions of ancient engravings of characters, images, and decorative motifs that carried important historical and art-historical information. Currently, many of the rubbings in Western collections were made during the Qing Dynasty and Republic of China period (1911–1949).
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Provenance: private Evergreen, Colorado, USA collection; ex-private Denver, Colorado, USA, collection; acquired 1960 to 2000
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Rubbings have not been examined outside the frames. Some expected tears as shown, but otherwise very nice with vivid imagery. Frame of the larger rubbing could be secured better.