Spending a few days at Guangzhou and being generally impressed with how modern and well developed most of central Guangzhou is, I kept wondering where the ancient Canton capital’s history is hiding. There are a few older areas and special temples dating back a few hundred years in Guangzhou, but I didn’t really come across any mentions of something really old, till I was told about the Museum of the Western Han Dynasty Mausoleum of the Nanyue King. A relatively humble place for one of the greatest findings in Guangzhou, centered around the tomb or mausoleum of Zhao Mei – the second king of the Nanyue Han Dynasty dating back to 206BC till 24AD, around the time of the second temple and the introduction to Jesus taking place in the other side of Asia.
On the western borders of the Yue Xiu Park, is the almost hidden entrance to the Mausoleum.
The background introduction on the official website gives a good general picture :
In 214 BC, Qingshihuang, the first emperor of Qin Dynasty, dispatched a 500,000 strong army to unite the Lingnan area. After the downfall of Qin , the former Qin general Zhao Tuo rose to power in the ensuing chaos and established the Nanyue Kingdom in the year of 203 BC. The Nanyue Kingdom lasted for 93 years, with 5 kings in reign.
During his reign of 67 years, Zhao Tuo carried out series of policies that were conducive to the unification of ethnic peoples, and social and economic developments in the Lingnan region.
Zhao Mo was the second king, ruling the Nanyue Kingdom for 16 years. He was Zhao Tuo’s grandson. Since Zhao Tuo lived a long life, Zhao Mo’s father did not get the time to be king before Zhao Mo was bestowed with the crown. Zhao Mo’s life was recorded in historical records like Shiji and Hanshu.
Zhao Mo’s son, Zhao Yingqi, became the third king for 10 years. His mausoleum was plundered during the Three Kingdoms Period.
Both the fourth and the fifth Kings were Zhao Yingqi’s sons. The brothers fought for the crown at the expense of each other’s life. The time they were kings in all counted no more than three years. The Nanyue Kingdom disappeared from history when Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty caught and killed the fifth king.
The contrasts of old history with the new museum design were quite striking,
and the actual site is quite small,
but the stuff that was found inside, in almost perfect condition surviving many centuries of thieves and tomb raiders, is a grand collection of artifacts from that era.
Worth a visit if you’re looking for the more historical side of Guangzhou and Chinese culture.