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  • About the Cover
  • David L. Howell

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details: Han Xiping shijing houji canshi 漢熹平石經後記殘石, circa 1912–1945. Rubbing from Han-era stele fragment; paper, ink, intaglio; 54 x 40 cm. No. TP0970, Harvard-Yenching Library, Harvard University, Cambridge MA [online version available through the Hollis Catalog (no. 9788564), at]. Photo: Imaging Department © President and Fellows of Harvard College.

Cai Yong 蔡邕 and his colleagues, eager to produce an authoritative version of the classical canon, persuaded Emperor Ling 靈 of Eastern Han to commission an edition literally engraved in stone. Production of the resulting Xiping stone Classics (Xiping shijing 熹平石經) began in 175 ce, during the Xiping era (hence the name). The stone Classics comprised forty-six steles, each more than eight feet high and three feet wide, on which were engraved a set of seven classical texts, more than 200,000 characters in all. The steles were erected outside the dynastic academy in Luoyang. They were broken or destroyed during the fighting at the end of the Han and only fragments now survive.

The image on the cover is a rubbing of one such fragment. It was made during the Republican era from a stone held at the National Beiping Library (now the National Library of China). It appears to be a passage from a postface to the entire Classics. Among other things, the fragment is interesting because it corroborates the involvement of the eunuch Li Xun 李巡 in the conception and execution of the stone Classics project.

HJAS thanks the Harvard-Yenching Library for permission to reproduce the image. The Journal also sincerely thanks Professor Michael Hunter of Yale University for his generous guidance in interpreting the significance of the rubbing. [End Page 259]



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