Ode to Shimen (石門頌) was created during the Eastern Han dynasty in 148 AD in memory of the government official YANG Meng-wen (楊孟文) who was credited with the repairing and re-opening of the once blocked major pathway of Baoyedao (褒斜道) to the western part of the country.
Before the reopening of major pathway, travellers had to take other narrower and dangerous pathways through the deep valleys full of perilous steep boulders, wild beasts, venom snakes and thick vegetation. Many wagons loaded with goods fell off from these hazardous pathways and even empty wagons had difficulties in passing through.
Yang, against his opponents in the government, appealed to the Emperor to repair Baoyedao pathway. The Emperor agreed and commanded Yang to be in charge of the project. The broken bridges at Shimen (石門) were repaired. The pathway was widened. People rejoiced and praised Yang for his contribution.
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Appreciation of the characters
The brush work of the characters is both spontaneous and respectful of the conventional calligraphic rules. Variation in the density of strokes and their positioning also adds interest to the unique appearance of this engraving. The average width of the characters is about 8 cm. The length of the characters varies from about 2 cm to 10 cm or even more.
The last stroke of the character 命 on the ink rubbing is exceptionally long.
The character 命 was carved near a crevice or fissure on the rock. No more characters could be carved below it. Therefore, the elongation of the last stroke might be due to erosion of the rock.
There was space for characters under the character 充 in the second column, but there was none because the characters 高祖 Gaozu (the Emperor) had to be raised to the top of the next column to show respect.