KRISTA MILLS / FOR THE SUN
As with most Chinese buildings and gardens, a lion stands guard on the bridge leading to across the canal to where the emperor is buried. Look at how many people aren’t here!
On weekends, the foreign teachers in Yangzhou take their e-bikes out on the road to explore the city. One of our number strayed beyond the usual streets, going far to the north, and accidentally found the tomb of a Chinese emperor.
A column next to a slow moving canal. The mausoleum is so far out of the way there was very few English translations. No one expected foreigners here. (KRISTA MILLS / FOR THE SUN)
Completely overgrown, the mausoleum now looks like a big hill. The thorned bushes kept us from trying to climb it. That probably would have been disrespectful anyways. (KRISTA MILLS / FOR THE SUN)
I could not think of a better way to start the new school year.
The Sui Emperor Yangdi fatally visited Yangzhou in 618 C.E. During this visit he was taken prisoner by some rebel officers, lynched and buried in a remote grave. In 622 his body was found and brought to the mausoleum in Leitang, a district in Northern Yangzhou.
This man was important. It was under him that the Grand Canal was finally finished. The act turned Yangzhou from a small village into a trade and communications hub in central China.
Twelve hundred years pass by.
In 1802 the mausoleum was finally finished and most of it has not changed since then.
Flash forward again 200 years to modern times.
The tomb and grounds are completely overgrown. Not many people can make the hour-long trip to the outskirts of the city, so the district ignores the upkeep of the grounds in favour of more popular places. It created a wild feeling, as if we were in a jungle. I found myself swatting long branches and weeds out of the way so that we could get a better view of the burial mound. That was until I caught a barbed branch to the neck.
It only bled a little and we continued on, enjoying the peace of the gardens.
Silence is a precious, precious thing in this country. With no traffic and no people we explored at will and looked for the old city wall that was advertised to be nearby. The only thing we found that was remotely wallish was something built too recently to be from the nineteenth century.
However, the fact that the emperor’s tomb has lasted into modern times was good enough for us. The old engravings were barely readable, except for a more recently carved column giving information to tourists. They only looked like rocks from a distance. The mound itself was a foreboding lump so overwhelmed by plant life you could not see the doors to get inside.
Against all reason, the simplicity of the experience somehow added to our trip. Oftentimes in China the touristy places are all façade, no more than 30 years old and filled with people. Seeing a long forgotten emperor’s tomb was a refreshing change.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 8, 2012