The full name of Xianyu Huang Bei (鮮于璜碑) is Han Qu Yan Men Taishou Xianyu Jun Bei (漢故雁門太守鮮于君碑).
Xianyu Huang Bei (Epitaph for Xianyu Huang) in clerical script was erected during the Eastern Han, 165 CE. The inscriptions has a total of 827 characters. The text at the front (碑陽) has sixteen columns, with each column containing 35 characters. The text at the back (碑陰) has fifteen columns, with 25 characters in each column. The stele was unearthed in 1973 at Wuqing, Tianjin municipality (天津市武清縣東漢), it is now kept at Tianjin Museum (天津市歷史博物館).
The text is as follows:
Xianyu Huang Bei (Epitaph for Xianyu Huang), a stele dedicated to a prefecture chief (太守) of the Han dynasty.
Xian Yu (鮮于) was the surname. Huang (璜) was his first name. The courtesy name was Boqian (伯謙). His ancestors came from the descendants of Jizi (箕子) of the Yin (殷) and Shang (商) Dynasties. He was an outstanding descendant of Xian Yu Hong (鮮于弘) in the Jiaodong Kingdom (膠東王國) of the Han Dynasty (漢朝).
Xian Yu Huang was intelligent and talented. When he was a child, his eyes were round and big, full of spirit (徹䁵有芳). Since childhood Huang showed filial piety to his mother and he never stressed his mother out. He was respectful to his teacher and assiduous with his studies. Huang was selected to serve in the government. He was later promoted as the magistrate of Ganyu county (贛榆令). The people praised Huang for his kindness (民誦其惠) and he had good rapport with his colleague (吏懷其威). When Huang’s father died, he resigned from his office and returned home for a mourning period of three years. Afterwards, he served as a staff to the head official of the military (太尉府). He proposed good strategy and was praised by the Emperor.
A famine broke out in Jizhou (冀州) and many people died of starvation. The Emperor sought advice from Huang (帝諮君謀) and appointed him as the envoy of Anbian (安邊節使) governing two districts (銜命二州). Huang enforced the law impartially (受莢秉憲) denouncing those who perverted the law (彈貶貪枉). Huang was honest and upright (清風流射). He has the good reputation of Shao Bo (邵伯), an official in ancient time. The Emperor appointed Huang as the prefecture chief of Yanman (雁門太守). His righteousness set good example to the people and the people obeyed and followed him (聲教禁化, 猷風之中). At that time, the arrogant people of Wuhuan (烏桓) who were on the outskirts of the country started riots. Huang showed his authority and led an army to pacify the Wuhuan people (君執以威權, 征其後伏). Huang made great contributions to the Han Government. He united the people within the country and made distant neighbours harmonious (內和九親, 外睦遠鄰). His reputation grew high (令德高譽, 遺愛日新). Unfortunately Huang died early in the fourth year of Yanguang (延光四年)(125 CE).
His grandsons Fang (魴), Cang (倉), Jiu (九), etc. erected the stele for him in the eighth year of Yanxi (延熹八年)(165 CE ), 40 years after he died.
My copy of Xianyu Huang Bei is as follows:
Some of the characters cannot be read properly. I tried my best to write them out. Those characters may not be accurate. I find copying Xianyu Huang Bei highly challenging.
Some of the characters appear in the stele more than once. The following characters are good examples of those characters. Out of the variations of each character, the first one seems to be more typical.
In some characters, some strokes are missing, but we can still recognize those characters. Perhaps a stroke or part of a stroke can be added as in the modified characters.
In characters like 郎 and 嗣, the first horizontal stroke on the top left side is connected to the far left vertical stroke. This is quite special. In other steles, the characters are like the modified ones as below.
Some characters like 民 and 帥 have additional strokes. In many other steles, those strokes are not present as in the modified characters below.
The strokes are thick and solid, most with right-angle bends. In starting or ending a stroke, touches of the brush tip are concealed. The undulating strokes are very delicately executed, and the pauses and transitions are well handled. This style of writing is known as fang bi (方筆). Zhang Qian Bei (張遷碑) is a typical example of fang bi writing. Some calligraphers think that Xianyu Huang Bei is even more attractive than Zhang Qian Bei. Personally I prefer Zhang Qian Bei. I cut and pasted characters from rubbings of these two steles and put the corresponding characters side by side so that the readers can compare between the two steles.
A comparison of some characters of Zhang Qian Bei and Xianyu Huang Bei
In addition to vigour and verve, the work reveals a beauty arising from precision and orderliness. The characters at the back of the stele are less neat and orderly but are more varied and sometimes break free of borderlines.
Carvings on the top of the stele
On the top front of the stele were carved an Azure Dragon (Qinglong 青龍) and a White Tiger (Baihu 白虎).
Azure Dragon (青龍) was regarded as the guardian of the East. White Tiger (白虎) was regarded as the guardian of the West. The two beasts respectively represent the yang and yin opposition and interaction.
On the top back of the stele carved a Vermilion Bird (Zhuque 朱雀).
The Vermilion Bird presides over the southern quadrant and symbolizes the yang principle of brightness, light, and heat.
The tomb of Xianyu Huang (鮮于璜墓)
This stele was unearthed in May 1973 in the tomb of Xianyuhuang. The tomb is a medium-sized brick chamber tomb (磚室墓), which consists of a tomb passage (墓道), front chamber (前室), middle chamber (中室), back chamber (後室), smaller side chambers (耳室).
The tomb has been disturbed by tomb raiders throughout the centuries, valuable items might have been stolen. When the tomb was cleaned up in 1977, more than 70 cultural relics such as copper incense burner (銅薰爐), pottery warehouse (陶倉), bone comb (骨梳) and bone comb grate (骨梳篦) were unearthed. The tomb site has been turned into a tourist attraction in Tianjin.
漢 雁門太守鮮于君碑 書譜叢帖 (1979) 書譜出版社
俞丰 (2009) 經典碑帖釋文譯注, 上海書畫出版社 , ISBN 978-7-80725-846-9
Ouyang Z S, W C Fong, Y F Wang (2008) Chinese Calligraphy, Yale University, ISBN 978-0-300-12107-0