The Importance of Stone Inscriptions for the Study of Tomb Inscriptions

The Importance of Stone Inscriptions for the Study of Tomb Inscriptions (muzhiming 墓誌銘)

Higashi Ajia no kaiiku kōryū to Nihon dentō bunka no keisei

This research was part of an interdisciplinary research project based at Tōkyō University, Faculty of Humanities (人文社會系研究科), Japan (Prof. Dr. Kojima Tsuyoshi 小島毅):
“Higashi Ajia no kaiiku kōryū to Nihon dentō bunka no keisei 東アジアの海域 交流と日本傳統文化の形成”, and focused on late Tang, Wudai, and Song stone inscriptions.

Muzhiming are written sources. As stone inscriptions in the form of text (i.e. as a rule biographies of varying length) they were placed into the tomb of deceased, as a rule at the head or foot end of the coffin. These these “buried” tomb inscriptions have to be considered valuable authentical source material. This is because studying tomb inscriptions one has to distinguish between these buried, archaeological sources and “paper”-versions circulating among the living. Tomb inscriptions were for example composed by famous scholar-officials and literati and consequently entered their Collected Works (wenji 文 集). But they could also be included in other source collections and, above all, survived in the form of rubbings. Such “paper versions” of the inscriptions must not necessarily have been carved in stone. Above all, however, paper versions can differ from the original “buried” inscription stone. A comparison between both stone and paper versions can lead to interesting conclusions about the motivation and interests of their composers. The results of this sub-project have been published in two articles:

1. “Bohimei kankyū ni okeru shiseki no zhūyōsei 墓誌銘研究における石刻の重要性”, in Hiseki wa kataru 碑石は語る. (Tōkyō: Bensei shuppansha, 2006), pp. 82–93. アジア遊学 Intriguing Asia, no 91.
2. “A Buried Past: The Tomb Inscription (muzhiming) and Official Biographies of Wang Chuzhi 王處直 (863–923)”, JESHO 52:1 (2009), pp. 15–56.

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