Arts and Culture
Today, enormous historical calligraphy survived in the ink rubbings that were appreciated and collected by scholars and antiquarians for centuries in China, whilst a large number of works were notably dispersed outside of China during wartime, and they entered foreign collections in Japan, Europe, and the US, especially during the early twentieth century.
The Laufer collection at the current Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago, total almost 3000 titles of subjects, comprises some 4,000 sheets or items. Most of these rubbings were collected by the late Dr. Berthod Laufer (1874-1934), the first generation sinologist and a former Chief Curator of the Department of Anthropology there. While most collectors collected quality porcelains (CHINA), Laufer selected little-known Chinese art form: rubbings to collect for the museum. This paper focuses on the 182 items of rubbings during his Blackstone China and Tibetan Expedition (1908-10) to reconstruct the early collecting history of Chinese rubbings in the twentieth-century US, which would help us better understand how Chinese art and culture was appreciated and received. It also seeks to identify the value and historical significance of the Laufer collection, and the role of western collectors as mediator in the transmission of knowledge and artwork of Chinese ink rubbings.