The Fine Arts Library is home to some 2,600 East Asian rubbings, the majority of which are from China.
The rubbings were made from ancient stone stelae, tomb tablets, and Buddhist and Daoist scriptures on stelae and rocks, as well as from inscriptions and designs from bronze vessels, jade objects, ceramics, tomb bricks, and roof tiles.
Objects used to make the rubbings in the collection date from the Qin Dynasty (221–207 BCE) to the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644 CE).
Scholars have found these documents useful for studies in Chinese history, biography, epigraphy, Buddhist and Taoist art, fine arts, and calligraphy. The most significant rubbings in the collection are those from:
- Xiaotangshan (孝堂山) stone chamber
- Wu Liang shrine (武梁祠) in Shandong Province dating from the Han Period (206 BCE–220 CE)
- Forest of Stelae at Xi’an (西安碑林)
- Buddhist grotto sites in Gongxian (巩县) and Longmen (龙门) in Henan Province dating from the Northern Wei period (386–534 CE)
Harvard scholars and collectors Langdon Warner, Lawrence Sickman, Hamilton Bell, and C. Adrian Rübel gave many of the rubbings in this collection to Harvard. Langdon Warner himself collected many rubbings in north and northwest China during two expeditions for the Fogg Art Museum in 1923–1924 and 1925.