Four Wooden Tablets in clerical script

Colophon: Colophon by Zhang Heng (1914-1963)
Historical period(s)
Han dynasty, 42 BCE
Ink on wood
H x W (a.): 23.5 cm (9 1/4 in)
Credit Line
Gift of John M. Crawford, Jr.
Freer Gallery of Art
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Four tablets

China, Han dynasty (206 BCE - 220 CE), semi-cursive script
Provenance research underway.

Before the use of paper became widespread around the second century A.D., Chinese texts were written primarily on narrow tablets or strips of bamboo and wood. The strips were bound together at top and bottom with cords so they could be rolled for easy storage. Most wooden tablets from the Han dynasty (206 B.C.--A.D. 220) have been discovered in the arid northwestern regions of China. The largest single group, consisting mainly of official registers, legal documents, letters, and military dispatches, was unearthed in 1930 at Juyan in Gansu Province, north of the old Silk Road. These four tablets, each originally part of a separate document, probably come from Juyan.

Published References
  • Betty Ecke. Chinese Calligraphy. Exh. cat. Philadelphia, PA. .
  • Fu Shen, Glenn D. Lowry, Ann Yonemura, Thomas Lawton. From Concept to Context: Approaches to Asian and Islamic Calligraphy. Exh. cat. Washington. cat. 2, pp. 22-23.
  • Jao Tsung-I. On Some Wooden Tablets from Chu-yen. no. 1. pp. 93-96.
  • "居延漢簡(肆)." The Documents of The Han Dynasty on Wooden Slips from Edsen-Gol (IV). vol. IV, Taipei, Taiwan. pp. 257-258.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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