The Stele of Mount Hua Temple at the West Alp 西嶽華山廟碑 翻譯 英譯 Translation - Vincent's Calligraphy

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A model of The Stele of Mount Hua Temple at the West Alp
137 X 35cm (4)
Click to Enlarge.  Reserved. No available in Shop

A model of "The Stele of Mount Hua Temple at the West Alp"
137 X 35cm (4)  in Clerical Script (隸書)

Historical Information
The Stele of Mount Hua Temple at the West Alp was a large vertical rectangular stone slab that was installed during the Han Dynasty (206BC - 220AD) in 165AD inside the Mount Hua Temple located at Mount Hua, a mountain located near the city of Huayin of the Shaanxi province, China.  The calligraphic inscription on this stele is often considered as the best exemplar of the clerical script in Chinese History (當為漢隸第一品, 1), and as such is widely respected within Asian calligraphers.  The calligraphy was most likely written by Guo Xiangcha (郭香察) and was inscribed by Handan Gongxiu or Handan Xiu (邯鄲公修) and Su Zhang (蘇張), as suggested by the very end of the stele text (遣書佐新豐郭香察書,刻者潁川邯鄲公修蘇張) (2).  

The original stele no longer exists as it was destroyed in an earthquake during the Ming Dynasty in 1555AD (3).  However, four ink rubbings of the original stele can still be observed today; notably, the Changyuan rubbing (長垣本), the Huayin rubbing (華陰本), the Siming rubbing (四明本) and the Shunde rubbing (玲瓏山館/順德本) (4,5). The model presented above is written by me based on the Changyuan rubbing (長垣) .

The stele text highlighted the history of the Mount Hua Temple, where various Emperors from numerous ancient dynasties had performed sacrificial rites (祭祀) to worship the higher powers residing within Mount Hua.  Such performances of rites not only served as an opportunity for the Emperor to pray for peace and prosperity, but also served as public displays of the "divinity" that was bestowed from the Heavens upon the Emperors who were frequently revered as the "Sons of the Heavens (天子)"; indeed observing traditional rites and following ancestral customs were key prerequisites in validating the succession of this "divinity" from one Emperor to the next.

Abstract of the text in English
The stele text content can be summarized as follows:

  • The text began by introducing the whereabouts and geography of Mount Hua according to classical Chinese literature.  It then proceeded to document that Emperors from ancient eras preceding the Han Dynasty had regularly observed and attended sacrificial rites at the Mount Hua Temple to ask for favorable weather and good harvests.

  • The text then continued to note that the Temple was subsequently left unmaintained and abandoned until the reign of Emperor Guangwu of Han (漢光武帝, 5BC-57AD), who ordered the restoration of sacrificial rites at the Temple.  In 161AD (the fourth year of the Yanxi reign, 延熹四年), Yuan Feng (袁逢), Governor of the province Hongnong, initiated and oversaw the physical reconstruction of the Temple.  However, it was Sun Qiu (孫璆), the successor of Yuan Feng, who saw the final completion of the restoration of Temple and the installation of the Stele in 165AD (the eighth year of the Yanxi reign, 延熹八年).

  • The text concluded by disclosing the identities and roles of those who were involved in the establishment of the Stele.

Original text in Chinese








Personal Comments
a) On the calligraphy written in The Stele of Mount Hua Temple at the West Alp
The Stele of Mount Hua Temple at the West Alp was one of the earliest exemplars of the traditional Han Chinese clerical script.  Written in 165AD, the calligraphy presented in the stele was bold yet elegant, orderly yet dynamic(6).  Each brushstroke was penned with variable breadth, and characters were seemingly written with great power as if they were chiseled deeply into a stone by a brush.  Indeed, these are the essential elements that one will commonly find in well-written and aesthetically pleasing clerical script calligraphic works.

It is worth to mention that such style of variability, power and dynamics can also be observed in other Chinese calligraphic masterpieces written by other classical calligraphers born long after the installation of The Stele of Mount Hua Temple at the West Alp (7).  Therefore, it is reasonable to believe that The Stele of Mount Hua Temple at the West Alp might have had a great impact on subsequent generations of classical Chinese calligraphers, and so its influence on the development of Chinese calligraphy should never be underestimated.  

b) On the text content in The Stele of Mount Hua Temple at the West Alp and its relavance in today's society
The stele text implied the importance of observing rites and following traditions in promoting prosperity in the Han Dynasty.  The necessity of respecting traditions and observing rites is not new as Confucius (孔子, 551BC-479BC) long ago asserted that the observance of traditional moral norms and rites (禮) is important in ruling and maintaining a moral society in additional to cultivating one's own personal character (see Kongzi Jiayu - Disquisition on ritual 孔子家語·論禮).

Interestingly, the Confucian thought of following rites and traditions has never been forgotten throughout the ages and is still cherished today among many Chinese scholars.   Some of these scholars contend that respecting traditional Chinese culture and observing Chinese moral norms (such as following the Confucian virtues of Benevolence, Righteousness, Rite, Knowledge, and Integrity "仁義禮") are key prerequisites for identifying oneself as a Chinese (8).  Specifically, this school of thought believes that if a person does not respect traditional Chinese culture and follow Chinese cultural norms, then that person cannot be identified as a Chinese even if that person is of Chinese descent.  By extension, then, if a society rejects, does not respect nor practice traditional Chinese moral norms and customs, then that society cannot be regarded as a part of "China" regardless of its territorial occupancy.  Indeed, according to this rationale, the legitimacy of Communist China claiming herself to be "China" may be questionable since Communist China had once rejected Chinese traditions (via Cultural Revolution in 1966), replaced Chinese traditions with Communist anti-Confucian Maoism(毛澤東思想), and ultimately leading many of her people today to focus on superficial materialism rather than on genuinely observing traditional Chinese moral norms(9):

A. 錢穆, 《中國思想史》, (台北:蘭臺出版社, 2001, p. 233):
「中山先生的三民主義,是近代中國新生唯一的啟示,此刻在中國蔓延猖獗的共產主義,最多將是一個有骨骼有血肉的行屍 ……大陸政權正如一塊大石頭,在很高的山上滾下,越接近崩潰的時候,其力量越大……三面紅旗多恐怖,紅衞兵文化大革命多恐怖,下面還有更恐怖的事。」

Chien Mu in A History of Chinese Thoughts (中國思想史, p. 233):
"Dr. Sun Yat-sen's Three People's Principles is our only beacon of hope in reviving China.  The current widely popular Communism is, at most, only a walking dead without a soul.  The Mainland regime (ie. Communist China) is like a big rock rolling down from the top of a high mountain: the more it approaches to the ground where it disintegrates, the more powerful it becomes....How terrifying were the Three Red Banners, and how terrifying were the Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution: there will certainly be more terrifying events to come." (interpreted to English by KS Vincent Poon, May 12, 2017)  

B. 牟宗三 《中國文化的省察》, (台北: 聯經出版事業股份有限公司, 1983, pp.23-24):
「近代中國人看起來似乎聰明﹐實際上很差。中國人本來有智慧﹐可是從民國以來就沒有了。有的只是些小聰明而已。炎黃子孫怎麼會落到這種淺薄的地步呢? 其實也不是說民國以來這六﹑七十年才如此﹐其來也是有自的﹐也可說是由來久矣。只有小聰明而沒有真智慧﹐遇事便沒見識。要不然﹐共黨如何能出來。在一個堂堂的大中華民族中﹐具有五千年的歷史﹐深厚的文化傳統居然會出現像毛澤東這樣的人。簡單是不可思議! 而他竟然出現了﹐你說怪不怪? 就從這一點﹐諸位就可想到﹐這就表示中國人智慧不夠。這是我們這一代炎黃子孫太不肖了。」

Mou Zongsan in Restrospection on Chinese Culture (中國文化的省察, pp. 23 -24):
"Contemporary Chinese people appear to be intelligent but they are actually quite deplorable. Chinese people were originally very wise, but they lost their wisdom after the establishment of the Republic of China.  Whatever they have now can only be regarded as inconsequential cleverness. How can the Descendants of Yanhuang (ie. Chinese people) fall to such level of superficiality?  In fact, the problem did not arise six, seven or ten years after the establishment of the Republic; the problem is intrinsic and existed many years before that.  When one only possesses inconsequential cleverness without true wisdom, one will not deliver good judgement and possess foresight when facing challenges.  If we did have good judgment, Communists would not have risen among us.  Under the influence of our great traditional Chinese culture with five thousand years of solid and rich history, we nonetheless produced the likes of Mao Zedong.  How absurd and inconceivable!  Yet, he actually appeared to rule us.  Isn't that really odd?  Just from this outcome, one can conclude today's Chinese people do not possess enough wisdom. Indeed, our generation, as Descendants of Yanhuang, is truly a disgrace. (interpreted to English by KS Vincent Poon, May 12, 2017)   

Therefore, to restore and revive China, it is essential for one to recognize the utmost importance of conserving, respecting and re-introducing authentic traditional Chinese culture (中華文化) rather than focusing too much on materialistic development like GDP growth or expanding military might; for what is a body without a soul?

KS Vincent Poon May 13, 2017

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