"Wu Ban" Stele (detail of back face)
Rubbing from carved stone from the Wu Family Shrines
Artist/maker unknown, Chinese
The stone carvings collectively known as the Wu Family shrines are a series of organized pictorial elements and inscriptions forming a tomb discovered in China's Shandong province in 1786. The stone reliefs however have been studied since the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) through ink rubbings of their surface decoration and inscriptions. These rubbings were created by placing paper over the surface of the stone and rubbing the paper with ink, transferring the stone texture to paper. They are a commonly referenced historical source for the Han Dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE), but they often only selectively represent the stone surface and were in some cases likely altered to depict the "original" stone, eroding their reliability. Scholars now interpret the rubbings both as representations of the stone carving and pictorial traditions of the Han dynasty in which the stones were created, and also as a revealing look at attitudes towards the study of antiquity in the Song dynasty (and later years) in which the rubbings entered the study of history.