This album-mounted rubbing, entitled Preface to the Poems Composed at the Orchid Pavilion, or Lanting Xu, is one of the most valuable items in the Museum's Chinese collection. Wang Xizhi, considered by many to be China's greatest calligrapher, composed the essay around AD 353 to commemorate a gathering of scholars who drank wine and made a game of composing poetry.
The Field's copy of the rubbing dates to around AD 1140-1278 and may be one of the oldest versions in existence. Museum anthropologists recently collaborated with the National Library of China Press to create a series of facsimile reproductions of the book. The reproductions will make this historic text more widely available to an audience that understands and appreciates its value, rarity, and beauty. The Field Museum has more than 7,500 Chinese rubbings, ink impressions on paper of texts and objects primarily taken from stone inscriptions. Often, rubbings are the only record left of bygone compositions and monuments.