Li Qi Bei 禮器碑
The full name of Li Qi Bei (禮器碑) is ‘漢魯相韓敇造孔廟禮器碑’ (Ritual Objects Stele Made by Han Chi, Han Administer of Lu). It is also called ‘Han Chi Stele’ (韓敇碑). The stele was engraved in 156 CE. The text of the stele records how the Administrator of Lu (魯相), Han Chi (韓敇) renovated the Temple of Confucius (孔廟) and purchased ritual objects (禮器) – musical instruments and ritual vessels. Two horse-drawn wagons were also created, just like the wagon that Confucius used to go to court. Sludge was dredged from various waterways and wells to being in clear water. All this shows the highest respect for Confucius. Han Chi along with other officials and citizens contributed funds for the project and erected a stele to commemorate the event.
The musical instruments mentioned in the stele are bells (鍾), chimes (磬), zithers (瑟) and drums (鼓).
Some of the ritual vessels mentioned in the stele for holding wine, water, grains, meat and cakes and other food are as follows.
The stele also mentions the Yan (顏) clan of Confucius’ mother (顏母) and the ‘Qiguan’ (亓官) clan of his wife. Later on in history, the ‘Qiguan’ (亓官) clan was known as ‘Bingguan (并官) instead, as written in Li Qi Bei. Han Chi exempted the descendants of Yan clan and Bingguan clan from corvée labour and military service as a veneration for Confucius.
The stele is a typical example of the Eastern Han clerical calligraphy. The strokes of the characters are thin, sometimes mere threads, but they seem vigorous. The main strokes are sometimes set off with thicker, wedge-like ends. The whole inscription looks elegant and dignified. The serene flow of lines that gives viewers a sense of tranquil beauty. Many calligraphers rate this stele as the best among all Han clerical writings.
The text of the stele is as follows:
My copy of the stele is as follows:
Li Qi Bei, together with Yi Ying Bei (乙瑛碑) and Shi Chen Bei (史晨碑) are known as ‘The Three Steles of Confucius Temple’ (孔廟三碑). These three steles are of great significance in Chinese Calligraphy. They have been widely studied among calligraphers.
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Ouyang Z S, W C Fong, Y F Wang (2008) Chinese Calligraphy, Yale University, ISBN 978-0-300-12107-0
Wu, Sung-feng (2017) Teacher Exemplar for a Myriad Generations, Confucius in Painting, Calligraphy, and Prints through the ages, 萬世師表- 書畫中的孔子, National Palace Museum, ISBN 9789575627904