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winter 2018
Asian characters written on stone

Wofford acquires stone rubbings from the Stele Forest

Exhibit planned for fall semester in the Sandor Teszler Library Gallery

Jutta Bauman has only vague memories of her grandfather, German diplomat Karl-August Balser, but studying his papers and revisiting his collection of photographs and stone rubbings has been a source of pleasure and enlightenment, feelings she hopes Wofford students also experience when they study the stone rubbings now housed at Wofford in the permanent collection.

"There is something magical in handling authentic materials and letting them speak directly to us," says Bauman. "It allows students to take a quick journey into the past of a far-away place as well as develop an aesthetic awareness of objects that are completely foreign to them."

Balser purchased the rubbings in 1911 in Xian, China, where he was visiting the Stele Forest and the Nestorian Stele. 

"He was a lifelong scholar of Mandarin Chinese and Chinese arts, culture and religion, and he considered the rubbings his prize possessions," says Bauman. 

After Balser's death, the stone rubbings were passed down through the family.

"We didn't have the heart to donate them to a museum that would store them in a drawer and not use them," says Bauman. When Dr. Karen Goodchild, associate professor of art history and chair of the Department of Art and Art History, a friend of Bauman's daughter, Johanna, saw them, she suggested that the family consider donating them to Wofford.

"We encourage active handling and pedagogical use of collections," says Youmi Efurd, curator and cultural arts coordinator at Wofford. "After the exhibit, the stone rubbings and other pieces will be used by Wofford students studying Chinese, non-Western religions, Asian art and other subjects."

"I love the beauty of Chinese lettering, the many variations of script and the many writing systems shown in the rubbings that represent so many cultures-in-contact," says Bauman. "My grandfather practiced his Chinese with an ancient text, as I hope the Wofford students will do in the future!"

The Balser Family Archive, owned by Bauman and her sister, Sabine von Dryander, donated the 285 stone rubbings to Wofford. They will be on display in the Sandor Teszler Library Gallery along with other recently acquired Asian art pieces from Oct. 3 through Dec. 15, 2016. The exhibit is free and open to the public. 

by Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington ’89, Fall 2016