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Huiling Mausoleum and Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple of the Three Kingdoms (220-280)

Inside Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, there are a couple of facing couplets, the one on the right reads "Recall that I went for a walk to the east of Jingting Pavilion" while, to the left, "Emperor Liu and Prime Minister Zhuge worshipped in the same temple," excerpts from the poem Song of Old Cypress written by the Tang Dynasty poet Du Fu (712-770) in depicting the close relationship between Zhuge Liang (181-234) and Liu Bei (161-223). The closeness extended to death as their temples were built close together and nearly identical. Thus, this introduction to Liu Bei's Huiling Mausoleum and temple also introduces the Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple.

Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple


West of Zhuge Liang Hall in the Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple lies a quiet and secluded mausoleum, the tomb of Liu Bei, the first ruler of the State of Shu. It has, through history, been called the Huiling Mausoleum. A stone pillar inscribed with "The Tomb of Zhao Lie, Emperor of Han" still stands in front of the tomb, erected in the 53rd year of the Qian Long reign (1788) of the Qing Dynasty. And on the back of the wall is inlaid a horizontal board on which are inscribed "The Tomb of Han Emperor Zhao Lie" placed in the 7th year of the Kang Xi reign (1669).

Tombstone at Huiling, tomb of Liu Bei during the Three Kingdoms period


Further west, across a small bridge, and through Guihe Tower, Qinting Pavilion and the moon-gate named "The Han Family Cloud Ground," one enters a narrow zigzag vermilion wall lane. At the end of the lane lies the tomb of Liu Bei amid a bamboo grove, in a quiet, secluded environment.


According to the History of the Three Kingdoms, in the fourth month of the third year of the Zhang Wu reign (223), Liu Bei died in the Yong'an Palace in Baidi Town (present-day Fengjie County). His remains were shipped to Chengdu in May and buried in Huiling with his wives, Gan and Wu.


Why did Liu Bei die in Baidi Town at the entrance to the Yangtze Gorges in eastern Sichuan? It was because Guan Yu, a military hero of the Three Kingdoms period, had been defeated and killed at Maicheng (present-day Dangyang County, Hubei Province) in 219. Despite a political situation that was just moving toward stability and in which long-neglected tasks were now being done, and with a powerful enemy, Cao Cao, in the north glaring southward like a tiger eyeing its prey, Liu Bei was determined to lead his troops eastwards to fight against the State of Wu to avenge the defeat and death of his sworn brother, Guan Yu. The following June, Liu Bei, knowing nothing of his enemy's situation, nevertheless moved his troop into battle, suffering a crushing defeat by Wu's troops in Xiaoting (present-clay Yidu County, Hubei Province). He could not but retreat to and defend Baidi Town. There, for a year, Liu was so worried and indignant that he fell iii, taking to his bed, which he never left. At the same time, Zhuge Liang hurriedly left Chengdu to join Liu. There, a critically ill Liu entrusted Zhuge Liang with the care of his son, the crown prince. This resulted in the story of Entrusting Zhuge Liang with an Orphan in Baidi Town handed down from ancient times. The death of Emperor Liu Bei was a heavy loss to the State of Western Sbu during the Three Kingdoms.


Nobody knows the date of original construction of the tomb of Liu Bei. However, conditions at the time made it impossible for the State of Western Shu to spend much money and materials on a mausoleum.


Neither an arch nor stone inscriptions were found in front of Huiling. The sleeping chamber at the front of the mausoleum is very simple and narrow. The earth covering on the tomb was only 12 metres deep and the tomb is circled by a round, ancient brick wall with a circumference of 180 metres. Grass and greenwoods cover the tomb's earth slopes. In ancient times cypresses and pine trees grew around the tomb and formed a line to the Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple. Li Shangyin, a poet of the late Tang Dynasty wrote a classical-style poem, "Old Cypresses of the Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple":

Cypresses grow in front of Shu Prime Minister's Hall,

      So their branches, like dragons and snakes, cover the temple;

                 Their shade so wide it reaches the riverside.

                 All this faces always toward Huiling Temple.


This poem shows that as late as a thousand years ago dense pine and cypress growth graced the tomb areas.


Because Liu Bei made valuable contributions in history and because his tomb is located near the Zhuge Liang Memorial Temple, he was worshipped in ancient times. According to the work Geographical Records of Northern Song (Tat Ping Huan Yu Ji), during the Da Zhong reign of Emperor Xuan Zong in the Tang Dynasty, these tombs were protected and sacrifices were offered throughout the year, at least when Li Hut, prefecture garrison commander, guarded Chengdu.


There are couplets on Liu Bei Hall dating from the Xian Feng reign (1851-1861) of the Qing Dynasty. The couplets read:

Even now it is a towering pile of earth on the tomb,

                Yet the three bronze-bird mound has been damaged,

                And one knows of the tombs of Cao Cao along the Zhanghe River;


Tripartite states still exist,

                But only the ancient stone passage remains,

                To make people think of officials of the Han Dynasty.


The first couplet boasts that the earth covering of Liu Bei's tomb still majestically stands while Cao Cao's three bronze-bird mound in Yecheng is damaged and nobody knows the locations of his seventy-two false tombs along the Zhanghe River. It indicates the author's orthodoxies in eulogizing Liu Bei while denouncing Cao Cao. There is no confirmation that Cao Cao had built seventy-two fake tombs for himself as a means of preventing looting of his real tomb. It is a mystery handed down from ancient times.