Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Photoblog Hong Kong: Lei Cheng Uk Han Tomb Museum

Cheer myself up by dragging the kids to a tomb.

This gravesite dates from the Han dynasty. We're told it may be the tomb of an officer, come down from central China to the wild, seabeaten shores of the southern China coast. How do they know? This grave, we learn, contains pottery items in a style typical of the mighty Han Dynasty, and not items of the local Yue culture, which would have been mostly three-legged bronze vessels.

If you're lost, English reader, jump two thousand years back, when the families of England were offered the option: accept Roman administration, or fight out your tribal days in the spirit of Boudicca.

We're told that this tomb is particularly important, for it shows the reach of a dynastic power. It was discovered by accident when hill slopes were levelled to provide housing. The site was recognised and preserved, and today you can see a fine brick building behind glass. We can't get into it. Probably in case we breathe on it, walk in it, or chip bits off for good fortune. It seems to have an air conditioner unit driven into the ground of the central portion. We're informed this is for temperature control and required to preserve optimum humidity.

Fifty eight grave items were found in the tomb and some are displayed in the museum next door. Considering that at this time you can take anything with you, I thought fifty eight doesn't sound like much of a commitment to a comfortable afterlife.

Me, I'm rebelliously taking more than my due, with two thousand books, knickers, comfy chair, roll up mattress, spare glasses, my biggest ladle, electricity and clean water supplies, selection of crockery and the saucepan that Dig calls the tribal cooking pot. I'm also shoving in my green shawl (the one that works like an ID document to being British). It is useful to sit on for picnics, wrap round you if it gets chilly and, in those everyday emergencies, doubles up as an arm sling and a handbag.

No dead bodies though. That's a shame; it would have given the archaeologists something to poke their fingers into. I suppose it leaves us the question Why isn't there a body in the tomb?

Grit and the gritlets provide plenty of answers to that as we peer into the empty tomb. I offer the unimaginative grown up response, 'there is probably another grave elsewhere' but prefer the more interesting 'he was beaten to death on the road to Beijing by a giant albatross' (Squirrel). Wherever he is now, I bet he had his work cut out down here, in these difficult lands and seas of mountains and boats.

Go, if you are in town. The displays are useful, the video introduction helpful, and the guards over attentive. I think that in the west we are told China has a long and purposeful history of order and continuity. Disorder is treated as an aberration and deviation from the norm. While a story of continuous control and Confucian harmony can be told, I bet you could also tell a story of rebellions, confrontations, divisions and internal fighting.

Anyway, before we leave, we have the required argument over who is allowed to stand where when looking at the brick tomb and broken pottery; who always gets the best sightline; who never gets what they want; who is right; who called whom a baby etc. etc.

Maybe the best bit of the tomb visit for the squabbling triplets is the running about in the sunshine, at the Han Dynasty inspired garden next door. Here it is quiet and peaceful. I take the advantage of the sitting area in the pavilion to read aloud extracts of Chinese history two thousand years ago while the not-so-small argumentative mouths are busy with bread and biscuits.

Then the kids run about, probably raising the eyebrows of the elderly folk who may have been sitting like this for two thousand years themselves. Amongst this busy suburb of Hong Kong, they come to the quiet stone seats in the pavilions by the curved paths and sea sculptured rocks of the garden to chat and take gentle refuge from the busy streets and noise outside.


Rachel M. said...

The girls are growing up so fast, I almost don't recognize them in the bio photos. Time to update their bio photos!!

sharon said...

Rachel is right with her observation re the girls.

All the new museums to visit with their slightly different slant on history must be quite fascinating. I did learn about the Opium Wars period whilst at school, and agree it was one of many not particularly edifying aspects of the Empire days. I think in recent years history teaching has become less wide-ranging than it used to be, hence the perceived glaring gaps in the knowledge of current students.

Grit said...

you are right about those photos. i will have to do it when they are off guard. then i might achieve some generous and beautiful moment.

it is increasingly hard to photo tiger, as she runs off. shark thumps me, and squirrel poses. (actually, that last one can be the worst result of all.)