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Lothar Ledderose. Scaling the Cliffs

The Chinese practice of adding colophons to pieces of calligraphy started with a bang. The earliest known colophon, carved into bare rock on Mt Tie on the northern outskirts of Zoucheng in Shandong province and dated 29 September 579, is 17 metres high. This huge piece of writing is yet dwarfed by the main text next to it, a passage from the Daji jing (Great Collection Sutra) that extends a full 51 metres up a slanting slope, literally scaling the mountain. Engraved characters, 40 centimetres high on average, can be made out in the foreground, but they are more easily discernible with a strong flashlight at night. Yet the entire written area is so large that it can only be viewed comfortably from above. The modern enclosure emphasizes that the field of script has the shape of a stele. One man alone would not have been capable of creating this.  

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