Eulogy or Inscription Carved on a Stela
These constitute a genre of short rewriting in ancient times to sing the praise of a meritorious or virtuous deceased person. Such a eulogy, written in rhymed verse, was usually used to recount the deceased person’s virtuous deeds and express one’s grief over his death. The inscription carved on a stela has two parts, with the first part being a brief account of the life of a deceased person and the second extolling the person’s merits and virtues. According to Liu Xie (465?-520) of the Southern Dynasties, this kind of writing was no longer written for emperors and kings only, but was extended to cover ordinary people. The text was written to see that the deceased person’s noble character passes down to posterity. It should highlight the person’s deeds truthfully and eulogize his fine deeds and virtue. A eulogy or an inscription carved on a stela was written to cherish the memory of the deceased and satisfy the need of those who were alive to seek eternal solace. It should also promote virtue and inspire later generations to excel. So, it should be discreet and proper in its assessment of the deceased person.
Lei originally meant accumulate, so a eulogy lists a deceased person’s meritorious and virtuous deeds and extols him to make him eternal. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)
It requires a historian’s talent to write an inscription carved on a stela. Its first half is no different from a biography and its second half, written in rhymed verse, is like an epigraph. (Liu Xie: The Literary Mind and the Carving of Dragons)