'monuments to inner thought'

Shipu ... are books of description, poetry, or art dedicated to stones. The first was published between 300 B.C. and A.D. 100, as part of an encyclopedia of facts about the known world.
Rebecca Robertson, "7 Astonishing Chinese Philosophers' Stones That Look Like Monsters and Landscapes." ArtNews, 5/26/14.

A number of terms were created to describe the desired qualities in a scholar’s rock, from shou (meaning thin) to tou (conveying ‘openess’). Hollows in the rock, meanwhile, were prized for their dramatic contrast to the solidity of the stone — and light. Other terms denote the rock’s age: gu means ancient but also elegant, while jue is the ultimate accolade, translating as ‘perfect’.
Christie's: Collecting Guide: scholar rocks.

Like a landscape painting, the rock represented a microcosm of the universe on which the scholar could meditate within the confines of his studio or garden.
Robert D. Mowr

They are not fixed in meaning, the way we are used to art being fixed.The principal thing is to take a rock - which is the most common thing in the world - and to transform its image, through looking, beyond a rock, into something uncommon.
Richard Rosenblum, quoted in the Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/6/1998. (Post title taken from this article.)


Related: viewing stones at The National Bonsai Foundation; a review of Rosenblum's collection by John Mendelsohn.

Pictured: Chinese scholar stone at Chista.