A great number of bronze
objects of Shang and Zhou dynasties have been unearthed since
Han dynasty. The excavated objects have also attracted much
attention from scholars of various fields. Up to the present
a wealth of knowledge of those objects, which has been accumulated,
has been keeping on developing vigorously. The knowledge
proves an important constituent in studies of philology,
ancient history and history of art. Nevertheless, original
bronze objects and their rubbings are so scattered that researchers
find themselves in difficult conditions of collecting them.
To scholars, rubbings of bronze objects are as valuable
as the original objects, for they are treated as first-hand
materials of investigations. The strong contrast of black
and white on rubbings help scholars decipher inscriptions
and patterns on the objects. Also it is easier for scholars
to attain rubbings that are portable than actual bronze
objects. Rubbings have accordingly become an important form
for scholars or collectors to preserve the images or inscriptions on the bronze
objects. During the course of circulation of original objects, many of them have
been broken or damaged due to natural or human causes. Consequently, rubbings
become in many cases the only form left available for scholarly examinations.
From the aesthetic perspective, many rubbings are excellent works of art in themselves.
Besides, the comments and seals of collectors particularly add artistic value
to these rubbings.
Since the establishment of the Institute of History & Philology, Mr. Fu
Ssu Nien had been diligently purchasing and collecting rubbings, in order to
have comprehensive materials for research. As a result of the efforts of Mr.
Fu and other like-minded colleagues, the rubbings collection of the Institute
increased both in quantity and quality. Three major characteristics of the rubbing
collection deserve detailed descriptions.
(1) Exquisite quality: Bound together in a book, kept as loose sheets, or packaged
as scrolls, many of the rubbings are created by famous craftsmen and formerly
owned by celebrated collectors, including Ruan Yuan, Liu Hsinyuan, Chen Jieqi,
Wu Dacheng, Luo Zhenyu, and Liu Tizhi, who are all famous collectors from the
Qing dynasty to the early days of the Republican China. The best of their time,
items that have been carefully inscribed, such as the "Xi Ding Shou Ta", "Jia
Zi Meng Dong Xi Ding Ta Yu Min Xian Luo Jiang", "Jin Xi Zhou Kang Yuan Ta Jin
Shi Wen Zi", "Wang Xiu Ren Shou Ta", and "Ho Yang Ma Zi Yun Shou Ta Jin Shi"
are seals that have been inscribed by famous craftsmen such as Zhou Kang Yuan,
Wang Xiu Ren and Ma Zi Yun. In particular, the exquisite rubbings by Zhou Kang
Yuan are especially held in high regard for the matter of facts of quantity and
quality. Quality of the rubbings certainly varies according to rubbing skills.
The seals carefully and meticulously inscribed onto the rubbings are the best
guarantees of product quality. Difficult to find nowadays in market, the huge
collection of bronze rubbings at the Fu Ssu Nien Library may be regarded as a
(2) Extensive quantity: If one page of inscription
is taken as the unit, the Fu Ssu Nien Library acquires more
than 10,000 pieces of rubbings. Compared with the most complete
records on investigations on bronze objects "Yin-Zhou-Jin-Wen-Ji-Cheng",
which has 13,000 rubbings, the bronze rubbings of the Fu Ssu
Nien Library are comparable to the aforesaid in quantity, and
surpass the aforesaid in terms of aesthetic quality. The bronze
rubbings of the Fu Ssu Nien Library cover various types of
objects (such as sacrifices, weapons and miscellaneous objects),
and some of the bronze rubbings are not found in current records,
or are the only extant copies. Accordingly, they should be
cherished not only for scholarly purpose of verification, but
the sheer uniqueness. In relation to overall rubbings, the
biggest public collections of overall rubbings of bronze objects
can be found today in the Fu Ssu Nien Library, National Library
in Taiwan and the Beijing Library. Fu Ssu Nien Library keeps
a collection of approximately 1,100 overall rubbings, while
the National Library keeps a collection of 720 pieces, and
Beijing Library 700 pieces. Apart from overall rubbings, the
"Xiao-Xue-Jing-Ge-Jin-Wen-Ta-Pian" and "San-Dai-Ji-Jin-Wen-Cun"
original rubbings and other collections are all precious collections
of original rubbings in the Fu Ssu Nien Library.
In order to enable these materials to be
widely known among people, and to extend the lifespan of the
rubbings, the Institute has been working on digitalization of
the rubbings, and has also publicized these digitalized materials
on the internet. In 2001, the "Plan for the Digital Archives
of IHP" was launched. One section in PDAIHP is "Plan for the
Digital Archives of Metal and Stone Rubbings and Ancient Books",
which enabled the said digitalization of the precious materials,
and gave rise to the "Digital Archives of Rubbings and Ancient
Books of IHP" in 2002. On the "Discussion Forum on the Metal
and Stone Rubbings Digital Archives" in 2004, the bronze rubbings
database of IHP was officially opened to the public.
(3) History recorded: Prior to the Sino-Japanese War, 1937-45,
when Mr. Fu Ssu Nien was organizing the library affairs, he
spent a huge amount of effort and resources to collect materials.
Letters in the Institute of History & Phlology Archives tell
how Mr. Fu Ssu Nien and other founders of the Institute committed
to purchase, exchange and request for donations of metal and
stone rubbings, such as the correspondences of Mr. Xu Zhongshu
to purchase Liu Tizhi's "Xiao-Xue-Jing-Ge-Jin-Wen-Ta-Pian",
the correspondences of Mr. Rong Geng to purchase the "San-Dai-Ji-Jin-Wen-Cun"
and Sun Poheng's rubbings collection, the correspondences of
Mr. Xu Zhongshu and Mr. Ma Heng regarding the "Xin-Shi-Li-Dai-Zhong-Ding-Yi-Qi-Kuan-Shi-Fa-Tie",
and the correspondences of Mr. Zhao Wanli regarding the "Fu-Zhai-Jin-Wen-Ta-Shi".
Their effort to preserve the common cultural heritage of humanity