This talk revisits the toolkit of the Chinese antiquarian. Calligraphy, landscape painting and seal carving form a prism through which visual and material realities can be revisited and are part of the same toolkit as travelling, collecting and rubbing steles. Literati and antiquarians are but two faces of the same figure, one turned towards creation, the other one towards the study of the past. The double arrow is a mutually enforcing one. Chinese antiquarianism appeals to us because of its contrasting attitude to matter, its strong reliance on text, and the distorting - and creative - lens it applies on sites and artefacts. This talk will present a collaborative experiment in contemporary ink art and art historical research between Lia Wei and Zhang Qiang. Between the years 2009 and 2017, the duo has investigated as series of sites belonging to a troubled and culturally fertile period in Chinese history located between the great Han and Tang Empires, often referred to as ‘medieval China’: the Eastern Han period cliff tombs (2nd to 3rd century CE) in the canyon and plateau landscape of Sichuan province and the monumental epigraphy of the monk and epigrapher Seng’An Daoyi (562-580 CE) in the mountaineous hinterland of Shandong province. The technique of rubbing was used to replicate sculptural or architectural elements as well as calligraphic or pictorial traces. Both examples of stone working are challenging to replicate into rubbings, and stand on the frontier between two-dimensional and three-dimensional representation. By selecting cultural traces of times and areas of ideological, political, religious and artistic experimentation, Lia Wei and Zhang Qiang hoped to both cast a fresh eye on mainstream history and on the tools traditionally used to investigate and record the Past. Mapping frontier landscapes also meant exploring disciplinary boundaries, and producing an output that would remain in-between existing fields of practice and knowledge.