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Song Shao Di Mu, Tomb of the Last Song Emperor

This is a longer version of an article that was originally published on April 19, 2010, in the Shenzhen Daily. I have added to it from another of my pages here on I last visited the site in 2013, and it was substantially as described here.

The tomb of Song Shao, last of the Song emperors. The peculiar shape of the tomb is meant
to emulate a woman's legs; the placing of ashes in the door simulates a return to the womb.
Shenzhen is a newly-developed city, but if you look closely, you can still find some history.

Case in point: Song Shao Di Mu, the tomb of Song Shao (also called Song Di Bing or Zhao Bing), last emperor of China's Southern Song Dynasty, who died in the Pearl River Delta in 1279 and whose body, it is said, washed up on the shores of Shenzhen.

In brief, the Mongols of the Yuan Dynasty were "sweeping up" after defeating the last real Chinese emperor, Zhao Qi, known as Duzong. That last emperor was the father of three young boys who technically (but not effectively) succeeded him before the Yuan solidified their power. His son Zhao Xian, the last seated Song emperor was captured and deposed (at age 6!) in 1276 by the Mongols who established the Yuan Dynasty. Members of his court fled to south China along with his two older brothers. One of these, Zhao Shi (aged 9), was declared Emperor Duanzong, but he died after only two years, in 1278, in what is now Hong Kong. His protector Hau Wong, is still revered as a god there.

A legend about this boy (also called Song Di Zheng) gave Kowloon its name. There was a belief that the young Emperor would be safe if he were sheltered in a place with "nine dragons" (which is a common motif in Chinese folklore). Kowloon is surrounded by eight mountains; on the theory that the Emperor himself was the Ninth Dragon, they decided to rest there. (Turns out they were wrong.) "Kowloon" is an English transcription of the name they gave the place, which means "Nine Dragons" (in Mandarin Chinese, "Jiu Long").

Zhao Shi's younger brother Zhao Bing then became the last Song emperor. When the Song fleet was about to be defeated at the Battle of Yamen (in the Pearl River near Guangzhou), the loyal Prime Minister of the Left, Lu Xiufu, leapt into the sea holding the boy emperor, ending his and the boy's life, as well as the Song dynasty's struggle against the Yuan. Many members of the court did the same.

Lu Xiufu holds Zhao Bing in his arms before leaping
into the water, ending their lives--and a dynasty.
Local legend takes over from here: a little body washed up on the shore, wearing the yellow dragon-embroidered robes of an emperor. At the same moment, a board fell from the interior of the nearby Tian Hou Temple. Devotees who recovered the body prayed at the temple to find out what to do with it. The goddess Tian Hou answered through a medium that the fallen board had been "given" to make a casket, and that the boy was to be entombed nearby. The tomb is now a fifteen-minute walk from the temple.

To get to Songshao Dimu, the tomb of the last Song emperor, take bus 226 through Shekou Seaworld to Chiwan. Get off past a small traffic circle at Nanshan Gongsi (南山公司). Walk back straight through the traffic circle to a "tee" intersection; turn left. Walk about 5-10 minutes, past a school. Turn left and left again. (I have published a marked map here.)

A statue stands at the entrance to the tomb area, depicting Lu about to leap into the water with Zhao Bing. Beyond the statue is the tomb itself, with offerings from those who still seek the boy's help from beyond. A stele on the site tells the story--unfortunately, only in Chinese.

You may also wish to visit the Tianhou Palace (Tianhou Gong, 天后宫) or the "Left Fort" (Zuo Paotai, 左炮台), a former gun emplacement from the 17th century. Both are found along the route of the 226 as it returns to Shekou.

You can take bus 226 to the area, or take the Shekou Metro Line to its end at Chiwan. The map accompanying the "Walk in Chiwan" article may be of some help.

In 2007 (before my series) the Shenzhen Daily published a series on historical sites in Shenzhen. Here's one entitled "Shaodiling, the eternal home of a 9-year-old emperor."

GPS Info:
  • 22.480109, 113.886600


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