June 12, 2011

Pyramids of the Orient

Before I returned to Vancouver, my last expedition in China was to Yinchuan. I was accompanied by a Finn. The capital of the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region was previously the capital of the Western Xia empire, before it was wiped off the face of the Earth by Genghis Khan and his troops. Little is known about this dynasty which ruled the area for two hundred years. All that remains of the Western Xia empire are 250 imperial tombs scattered about the outskirts of Yinchuan.

We were among a handful of visitors to the lightly trafficked mausoleums. We walked past the watchtowers, around a sacrificial altar, and towards the tombs. The land was quite barren near the two large mounds in front of us. Birds had made their residences in the royal tombs, which were in various states of decay. Chinese archaeologists had sprayed the tombs with a special chemical to minimize the damage caused to the mud and bricks structures by wind and rain. A large air base is located near the remains, so military aircraft of the People's Liberation Army Air Force continually whizzed by overhead as we explored the tumuli.

All photos: Jani Ruupanen


On the pedestal these words appear:
"My name is Ozymandias, king of kings.
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!"
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
— Percy Bysshe Shelley