Stele Forest - Beilin Museum

Stele Forest, Xi'an
 Stele Forest Pictures
 Video of Stele Forest

The Stele Forest, also called Beilin Museum, is a themed museum focusing on displays of stone steles, epigraphs and stone sculptures from past dynasties. Its location is on Sanxue Street, inside the Wenchang Gate of the Xi'an City Wall. Its construction is based on Xi'an Confucius Temple dating from 1087 during the North Song Dynasty (960 – 1127). The museum was built to preserve the Kaicheng Classics (a group of stone tablets) and the Filial Piety Classics. The collection has grown and now includes 11,000 relics, including three thousand stone steles or epigraphs that are housed in seven separate exhibition rooms. Among these many precious relics, there are 19 groups deemed to be national treasures that the visitor should not fail to see.
 National Treasures in Stele Forest

Compared with other museums, the outstanding characteristic of the Stele Forest is its collection of inscribed tablets. Tablet inscriptions tell us about the religions, life styles and historical facts of ancient times in a vivid way. They provide tourists with a grasp of the general outline of  Chinese history and the interaction of China and other countries. For the fans of Chinese calligraphy, these inscriptions are of great interest as they are fine examples of the diverse styles of Chinese characters.

Stele Forest is divided into two parts by the Halberd Gate, with the old constructions in the Confucius Temple in front and the exhibition rooms at the back. Upon arrival, the site of the Confucius Temple, including the screen wall, memorial archway and the Lingxing Gates, is before you. Through the Halberd Gate, two separate pavilions are arranged one on either side, with a stone horse of Daxia State (a minority ethnic state from 407 to 431) on the north side and a bell made in Tang Dynasty (618 - 907) on the south. The stone horse is a national treasure as it is rare and in the style of the Han Dynasty (206 BC - 220 AD).

As you go forward you pass by six pavilions and several temporary exhibition rooms arranged along a narrow path. At present, all these pavilions are closed to the public. At the end of this path there is a pavilion where the Stone Tablet of Classic Filial Piety is displayed. This was carved during the Tang Dynasty and bears inscription of dialogues between Confucius and his students.

Stone Tablet of Classic of Filial Piety
Pavilion Housing the
Stone Tablet of Classic of Filial Piety

Seven Exhibition Rooms for Steles

 The first room of Stele Forest is just behind the Stone Tablet of Classic of Filial Piety. The major exhibits in this room are the Kaicheng Classics, carved in 837 AD during the Tang Dynasty. This is a group of stone tablets with 12 reading books for intellectuals inscribed on them. Ancient Chinese people carved such books in stone to prevent copying errors and thereby provided models by which students could check the accuracy of reproduced texts. The Kaicheng Classics are the best preserved set of classics on stones in China.
 Pictures of the First Room

 The second room of Stele Forest collects stone tablets focusing on Chinese calligraphy of the Tang Dynasty. Most of these are examples used by those learning calligraphy today. The Nestorian Stele and the Bukong Monk Stele in this room are valuable sources for the study of intercultural communications between China and foreign countries during the Tang Dynasty.
 Pictures of the Second Room

 In the third room, stone tablets of calligraphy in other dynasties from the Han Dynasty to the Song Dynasty (960 - 1279) are on display. These focus mainly on various styles of Chinese calligraphy such as seal characters and regular script. For instance, the Stone Tablet of Cao Quan focuses on the clerical script and the Duobao Pagoda Stele and Xuanmi Pagoda Stele are the representatives of the regular script.
 Pictures of the Third Room

 The fourth room of Stele Forest houses stone tablets inscribed with poems and the likenesses of many of the calligraphers from the period as well as historical information. Most of these were carved during the reigns of the Song Dynasty to Qing Dynasty (1644 - 1911). In addition, many pictures of ancient palaces and natural landscapes are sculpted on the tablets. The stone picture of Xingqing Palace inscribed in Song Dynasty and the picture of Eight Views of Guanzhong Plain ( in central Shaanxi) carved in Qing Dynasty can be found in this room.
 Pictures of the Fourth Room 

  In the fifth room, most of the stone steles carved in Qing Dynasty, have local historical information from different places engraved on them. This is valuable not only for calligraphers but also historians. The historical information includes such topics as local history, society and records detailing the construction of temples, cities and so on.
 Pictures of the Fifth Room

Stone Steles of Ancient Dynasties
Stone Steles of Ancient Dynasties

 In the sixth room, most of the stone steles have poems, written in Qing Dynasty, carved on them, which are very hard to obtain. You can even see stone steles written by Emperor Kangxi, the fourth Qing Dynasty emperor, and Lin Zexu, a national hero of the Qing Dynasty.
 Pictures of the Sixth Room

 In the last room of Stele Forest, the seventh is where a replica of The Secret Copybooks of Chunhua is kept. The original Secret Copybooks of Chunhua, engraved in the year of Chunhua (992 AD) during the Song Dynasty, was a group of date-wood boards bearing calligraphy written by emperors, famous ministers and other skilled calligraphers. These copybooks were destroyed in a fire. Later during 1615 AD in the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644), new carvings based on the rubbings of the originals were made and these now shown in this room.


Stone Sculpture Art Galleries

On the either side of these seven exhibition rooms there are two sculpture galleries. The one to the east is newly constructed, and focuses on the booming development of Buddhism in Chang’an (now known as Xi'an). About 150 stone Buddhist statues from North Wei Dynasty (386 - 557) to Song Dynasty are on display there. These Buddhist exhibits are in two categories, Buddhist statues and Buddhist images carved on the stone tablets.
 Pictures of the New Stone Sculpture Exhibition Room

The older hall, showing about 70 exquisite exhibits dating from the Han and Tang Dynasties, is on the west. It is divided into two parts, namely stone sculptures from tombs and those about religion. Among the sculptures from tombs, the epigraph from Li Shou (a general as well as the brother of first emperor of Tang Dynasty) is the most famous, because it is the only one that exists in China. Also, the Six Steeds from the Zhaoling Mausoleum is outstanding. These represent Emperor Taizong’s favorite horses, which were engraved on the stone and put into his tomb after his death. The images of Buddhist statues of Sui (581 - 618) and Tang Dynasties are diverse. Embossments as well as circular engravings reflect the condition and development of Buddhism in ancient China
 Pictures of the Old Stone Sculpture Exhibition Room

How to get to Stele Forest

Take bus no.258 and get off at Wen Chang Men (Wen Chang Gate) Station. Walk south for 100 meters (109 yards) and turn right to find the Stele Forest.
Or take metro line 2 to Yongningmen and take Exit D1, walk north for 400 meters (437 yards), turn right and walk along South Shuncheng Rd. to find the museum.
Xi'an Bus /Metro Search

Entrance Fee March to November: CNY 65
December to the next February: CNY 50;
* Children under 1.2 meters are free of charge.
* A combo ticket for this museum and Xi'an City Wall costs CNY 100.
Opening Hours 8:00 - 18:30 (stop admission at 17:45)
* Tickets selling stops 45 minutes earlier.
Time for a Visit
Three hours

 Nearby Attractions:   Xi'an City Wall         Shuyuanmen Ancient Cultural Street

- Last updated on Mar. 05, 2024 by Gabby Li -
Questions & Answers on Stele Forest
Asked by Chamaiporn from THAILAND | Mar. 03, 2024 20:46Reply
Xi'an City wall ticket
If I buy the ticket CNY 45 for entrance The Xi'an City. Can I re-entrance if I get out any gates?
Answers (1)
Answered by Andrew | Mar. 05, 2024 19:44

No, you cannot.
Asked by Irene from SINGAPORE | Oct. 01, 2017 08:57Reply
Where is Wen Chang Men Bus Station in Xi'an?
Hi, the article mentioned taking buses to Wen Chang Men station, but I can't find it. May I know which line is it on ? Thanks
Answers (1)
Answered by Kayla from SINGAPORE | Oct. 09, 2017 01:51

Well, Wenchangmen is in Beilin District, and you can take bus 14/208/216/40 there.
In addition, take metro line 2 to Yongningmen, and leave from D2. Walk east for 10 minutes, then turn left and walk north for 5 minutes, you will get there.
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