Historic Tomb Rises Again

Plans are underway to restore an important historical mausoleum on Nandan Road in Shanghai's Xuhui District to its lost glory.

The 2-million-yuan (US$240,000) project, due to be completed by the end of the year, will renovate the last resting place of Xu Guangqi (1562-1633), a Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) minister of rites.

The project will also bring forth a renewed Guangqi Park where the grave is located.

When Xu died in 1633, his rank meant that his tomb, completed in 1641 in his native town, was only slightly below the ostentation of a member of the imperial family.

Apart from being a high-ranking imperial official, Xu was also a noted scientist and scholar, writing The Agriculture Almanac, an agricultural book, translating Western geometry into Chinese and compiling the Chinese lunar calendar book which up until then the country had lacked. He also introduced Catholicism to Shanghai.

Covering an area of 300 square meters and 2.2 meters high, the grave complex was made up of 10 coffin pits, including those of Xu, his wife and his descendants.

In front of the tomb, there stood two 2.5-meter-tall stone officials - one civil and one military - as well as various 1.8-meter-high stone tigers, 1.8-meter-long stone sheep and horses. These sculptures are indicators of Xu's official ranking as an imperial minister.

The complex also used to have a stone memorial archway with two ornamental columns 6.8 meters high, possibly the largest of its kind in the city, on which were fine relief sculptures of cranes and clouds. In front of the archway was a small stone arch 3 meters wide.

All this priceless architecture was destroyed during the "cultural revolution" (1966-1976).

Though the city government rebuilt the grave in 1981 and set up a granite sculpture of Xu Guangqi, the original stone officials, horses and memorial archway were all irreplaceably lost, diminishing the grave's historic value.

The recent discovery of the remains of the stone sculptures in the park in conjunction with historic records and pictures made further restoration feasible.

"Today, only a few old people still have a vague memory of what the grave used to be like," said Ding Yongkun of the Xuhui District Cultural Office. "If we don't hurry to restore the grave on the basis of historic records both from local museums and people, we will lose forever the original appearance of this great cultural heritage."

Meanwhile, the rundown South Chunhua Hall, the only house in the architectural style of the Ming Dynasty in urban Shanghai, will also be moved to the park and restored to its former glory. The hall on Meilong Road in the Xuhui District is the former residence of an imperial official who records only identify as Zhang, but who, by the style of the house, was clearly prestigious.

The building, located near the park, has a significant historic and artistic value, and its exposed beams, exquisite carvings and plain lines all reflect the style of early Ming Dynasty homes. However, it's on the verge of collapse due to long years of neglect and impromptu alterations by its residents. The district government has moved these residents out and, in relocating the house, hopes to make the park and tomb complex more attractive.

The park will be open to the public next year.

(Eastday.com.cn 03/26/2001)

In This Series

The Earliest Western Han Mausoleum Unearthed

Western Xia Mausoleums--Pyramids in the Orient



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