The Qui Stone Drums

A statesman from the ancient Chinese tradition, Sima Guang who lived in the years of 1960 to 1127 had a stone drum that was highly valued (Tseng et al. 40). This stone drum is today stored in the Palace Museum. The people who are associated with this artifact are the Northern Song Dynasty. There are a lot of characters that are inscribed on this stone drum. They are hundreds of them because they were being drawn each month by the people who wanted to preserve their identity on this stone drum. Seal script was used to make these characters, and the Qin state mostly used it. The Qin people primarily used the seal script during the time of war in the period of 475 to 221 BC. During this time, Qin was not stable, and the people were experiencing a lot of attacks from their adversaries who wanted to expand their territories.

The origin of stone drums is associated with the Tianxing of the Shaanxi. The people lived in the northwest of the Shaanxi province of the ancient, and they came from the Dynasty of Tang which existed in the 618 to 907. Tang scholars such as Han Yu as well as Wei Yingwu came up with a poem to give tribute to the stone drums. The calligraphy of the stone drums is terrific and is always remembered by this poem. The earliest sets of the culture of the Chinese people is exhibited on the inscriptions. The characters that are given on the stone could be described as just simple but are forceful. The message expressed is strong enough to convince the audience that the Chinese culture is full of art. The

The economic activities of the early Chinese people are described by the art inscribed on the stone drum. The people were not farmers although they had a settled life. They took advantage of their environment to extract the food that they ate. Fishing is common in the inscriptions because the society depended on ocean water that gave them fish. Therefore, drawings of fish are, and they are unique to the community which largely depended on this fish as a source of food. Hunting was also another way in which the people earned their living. They used to use this as a means to build their economy as they obtained their food, mostly meat from hunting. Warfare is also depicted on the arts because the community used to defend its right to their land by fighting off their enemies. War needed preparation because it is something that nobody knows how they would resist it if they were not prepared for it. Therefore, the art of warfare is also inscribed on the stone drum as a way to keep the memories of fighting the enemies and defending the territorial integrity of the Chinese people.

The inscribed stones have taken the name ‘Stone Drums’ from the fact that they are shaped round and are smoothened like stones. Many people in China call them the stone drums of Qin that lived early in the 7th century. The stone drums remain to be the oldest and well-renowned inscriptions on stones in the history of China. The epigraphers have assumed that these stone drums are the most priceless treasure that they have ever discovered in the history of Chinese society.

The description of these stone drums in height is between 72 to 88 centimeters. Some of the stones that were used as a grinding mortar were worn out because the activity reduced them. They, therefore, assumed the height of around 58 cm. The diameter of the stone drums ranges from 55 to 81 cm while their weight is at an average of 395 kg. The inscriptions on the stones differed. This is because a large rock which offers a more significant surface area could accommodate many small drawings.

On the other hand, a stone that has a little surface area such that it is small in size can only host few drawings which may be required to be compact in format. Therefore, the proportion and the size of each stone dictated what was to be placed on the surface. Lines determined the rocks because the arrangement of the drawing surface was made in terms of a grid. Therefore, the enormous stones were expected to hold an average of fifteen lines while the little stones had around nine lines. The most massive stones contained at most five characters in each grid of fifteen lines while the small ones accommodated eight graphs from a grid of nine lines.

The poems that are written on the stone drums are richly structured each with four characters. More so, the poems were highly rhymed, and the poets made sure that each verse had a rhyme as a characteristic of the old Chinese classic poetry. The lines are not so much because they were supposed to be paraphrased for the sake of maintaining their original content without dilution. These poems give the glory of fishing and hunting, the two major economic activities of the ancient Chinese society. Nonetheless, royal hunting was much hyped and praised because the king could not do his things in the usual manner of the common people. Therefore, a lot of art was concentrated on royal activities and their progress.

The stone drums originally had about 800 characters in total, and they were found to be damaged when they were discovered in 618 to 907 CE (Sullivan 40). The Tang Dynasty is the one that had acquired them at their time of mentioning. The poetry of Du Fu describes these stones and the Song Dynasty also injected their part in the history of the stone drums. This is because 501 Graphs are from their culture that was practiced in the years of 960 to 1272 CE. The stone drums have not been kept well, and their quality has been going down over time. More so, the natural environmental conditions coupled with age have not worked for the good of these stones. Rough handling has meant that some of the stones have broken into pieces while others have lost some of their original artistic beautifications. Some of the characters have been rubbed repeatedly, distorting the message and even losing the arty look. In one of the worst scenarios, one of the drum stones was used as a mortar, which has reduced it due to wear so that its size is a third of the original. Today, only 272 characters can be seen clearly and their message interpreted accordingly (Shao 7). However, where the rubbing has been done most, it is only 68% of the characters that are visible meaning that the message is not lost entirely because interpretation can be made although the work is not easy (Jin-bo 4).

Nevertheless, there have been some conflicts because of the interpretations. Some people have argued that these interpretations are not reliable because they expect that there must be great difficulty in interpreting an artwork that has only 68 percent of the original content. Disagreements have therefore resulted in, and many different interpretations are drawn from the work. However, this is a common phenomenon to the Zhou dynasty.

Many people have been arguing about the discovery of the stone drums because their exact date when they were found is not yet known. Therefore, the exact date of discovery has been the subject of debate for quite a long time, even today. However, one thing is sure that the stone drums were discovered during the time of the reign of Duke of the Qin state (Jin-bo 4). Even the century in which the stones were found is still unknown although some of the ancient scholars of Chinese history say that the stone drums were discovered around the 5th century BCE. When the stone drums are contrasted with the Qin Gong gui, they are in some way similar because they have the same style. This bronze tureen was one of the tools of due Jing who reigned in Qin up to around 537 BCE. The periods of the two artifacts are therefore argued to be similar, that is the spring and autumn season in Qin.

The values that are depicted on the art on the stone drums are core to the society. , and the poems describe the need of having a reliable source of income. This is why probably all the essential sources of income in the ancient Chinese society are portrayed on the stone drums. Fishing and hunting were the only two major economic activities, and their importance is fundamentally expressed in the artwork in this artifact. However, the hunt is not just the ordinary one but the royal hunting. This indicates that the politicization of economic activities took place because ordinary people hunting is are not recognized. It seems that the Duke was the role model who was admired both politically, economically and socially in the chines society.

More so, warfare is also depicted on the inscriptions because the Duke was protecting his state from being invaded and this shows the value of the technical expertise of fighting (Chiang 12). The ability to defeat enemies and maintain peace dictated the prosperity of a nation and how influential the leader was. The political structure was therefore monarchial because the dukes were appointed by the chief monarch (the king) to govern the kingdom and ensure that the policies and directions of the king were obeyed. These dukes were the governors over the states and reported back to the king which meant that a strong political structure governed the Chinese society. The religion of the people was Buddhism. Many religions had not yet sprouted during this time and the Chinese community only worshipped lord Buddha. In conclusion, the artifact is impressive because of its features which describe the culture, economic and social life of the people. Also, other activities of living such as warfare are shown by the inscriptions.






Works Cited

Chiang, Yee. Chinese calligraphy. Vol. 60. Harvard University Press, 2016.

Jin-bo, Ni. “A Review of the Studies on the Stone Drums.” Journal of Baoji University of Arts and Sciences (Social Science Edition) 4 (2016).

Shao, Zheng. Symphonic Poem No. 1, Poems on Stone Drums, for Full Orchestra. Diss. University of Missouri–Kansas City, 2017.

Sullivan, Michael. The Arts of China, Revised and Expanded. University of California Press, 2018.

Tseng, Yu-ho, and Youhe Zeng. A history of Chinese calligraphy. Chinese University Press, 2016.