When I was a kid, I had seen a Disney movie about a dog guarded its master’s grave after his death.

The town people had buried this dog next to its master after its own death. They had also created a statue of this dog. It becomes a tourist attraction nowadays.

In 1630 (late Ming Dynasty), Emperor Chang Qing was misinformed (by his Manchurian enemy) about the loyalty of General Yuan Chang Huan, one of his better commander-in-chiefs. General Yuan was accused of treason and sentenced to death by cutting into pieces. His head was hanged above the city wall to warn other possible traitors.

General She, an officer of Yuan, knew the accusation was false. He had risked his life stealing the head of General Yuan.

General She had buried Yuan in his backyard in Beijing. He had instructed his descendants not to work for the government, so that they could guard General Yuan’s tomb.

160 years later, the Qing Government had released historical records and cleared the General Yuan’s false accusation. The She descendants were still guarding Yuan’s tomb. Even the Qing Emperor Qian Long (coins minted during his reign is a favorite Feng Shui cure) had commended
their action and loyalty.

In 1952, the Chinese communist government wanted to move all ancient tombs out of Beijing municipal area. She’s descendants were still guarding the tomb. They had begged many high ranking officials to spare the tomb. Miracle did happen; Chairman Mao had spared the tomb.

But in 1966 (the Cultural Revolution), Yuan’s tombstone was smashed by the Red Guards. The tomb hall was occupied by 10+ families. The She family was kicked out to a goat stable.

In 1992, Beijing City Government had budgeted RMB$50,000 to repair the tomb, but the squatters still occupy the tomb hall.

She descendants campaigned hard for the removal of squatters from the tomb.

Last year, the city government had ordered the eviction of squatters, remodeling of Yuan’s tomb and opening it to tourists. But the order does not specify rebuilding the house for the tomb
guardians– the She family.

Seventeen generations of the She descendants have guarded General Yuan’s tomb for 372 years.

The government has offered the She family a bigger house outside the tomb, RMB$200,000 (US$25000) as compensation and lifetime consultancy.

The She family has declined the offer, saying that they are not aiming for money and fame but for doing something meaningful. “We cannot face our ancestors and descendants if we stop our

tomb-guarding duty after 372 years.

Ken Lai