East China's Shandong province has been holding exhibitions of rubbings of stone carvings from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) in recent years in foreign countries, including the United States, Germany and Russia, drawing attention from overseas audiences.
The carvings feature themes such as historical characters, social activities and myths and legends from ancient times.
"The stone carvings are the results of the talented craftsmen at that time and reflect the social life, culture and customs of the Han Dynasty," said Yang Aiguo, deputy director of the Shandong Stone Carvings Arts Museum.
"The exhibitions have become a name card for Shandong province's overseas cultural exchanges," said Xie Zhixiu, head of the Shandong Provincial Administration of Cultural Heritage.
Some carvings on tombs vividly portray how the owners traveled, socialized, wined and dined and enjoyed art performances, and how cooks and servants attended them. Those carvings are invaluable materials for the historical research of the arts, apparel and foods of ancient China, Xie said.
Stone carvings, also known as "murals carved on stone", date back to the late Western Han Dynasty (206 BC - AD 24). The carvings were generally used for decorations in tombs and temples.
This art form continued into the Eastern Han (AD 25 - 220) period and peaked as upper classes members started to build increasingly extravagant tombs.
A mason and a painter created the stone carvings together. The painter first did a rough sketch on the stone material to be carved, in most cases a stone plate. Then the mason would do the carving according to the sketch.
In China, the carvings have mostly been unearthed in the provinces of Shandong, Henan, Sichuan and Shaanxi. Jining and Linyi in Shandong are well known for discoveries of such carvings.
Most of the thousands of pieces of carvings unearthed in Shandong are stored at Shandong Museum and Shandong Stone Carvings Arts Museum.
Founded in 1981, the Shandong Stone Carvings Arts Museum is the first in China to specialize in the collection, display and research of ancient stone carvings.
A stone carving from the Han Dynasty (206 BC-220 AD), Three Rams Bringing Bliss, is in the Shandong Museum. Ju Chuanjiang / China Daily