Leaving Space for an Archaeological Exhibition Hall in a Subway Station

2020-03-30 17:51:59

Guo Dalu (text/photographs)

Leaving Space for an Archaeological Exhibition Hall in a Subway Station

The stone tablet inscribed with “wuzhu gucheng (literally ‘former city of Wuzhu’)”

202 BCE was a year when previously raging wars all over the world, from the ancient North Africa kingdoms, the Italian Peninsula, to the Central Plains of East Asia, were coming to an end.

The great Carthaginian general Hannibal once led tens of thousands of troops on a 900-kilometer blitz from Spain into northern Italy through the Pyrenees and the Alps to deliver a resounding blow to Roman troops (the ancient North African kingdom of Carthage is located near present-day Tunis). However, in 202 BCE, this great general was silently contemplative as news of his defeat in the Second Punic War reached the city of Zaanan. After his final capitulation, Hannibal became a sufet (magistrate) in Carthage and devoted himself to becoming a peace-time leader.

In spring of the same year, Liu Bang ascended to the throne in a region north of the Si River (in what is now Dingtao District, part of Shandong’s Heze Municipality).

Wuzhu, a native of the Min region (present-day Fujian), was also awaiting an edict from the emperor.

Liu Bang did not disappoint him. His edict encapsulated Wuzhu’s ancestral burdens, grievances, and hopes, all in less than 50 words:

Wuzhu, former King of Yue, bore the ancestral duty to honor the forebears of Yue through ritual sacrifices. The Kingdom of Qin invaded Yue land, and left its altars void of sacrificial offerings. When the vassals of the realm rose against the Qin, Wuzhu led troops of the Minzhong Commandery to aid the eventual victory against the Qin. Whereas Xiang Yu declined to bestow nobility upon him. Now, I name Wuzhu King of Mingyue, lord of the lands of Minzhong, who shall not neglect his duties.

Wuzhu was a distant descendant of Goujian, one of the kings of the Kingdom of Yue. Back in 334 BCE, King Wei of Chu led a successful military campaign against the Kingdom of Yue that saw the death of its king and the destruction of the kingdom itself. Wuzhu’s ancestors fled their home and found refuge in the far-away land of Min. In 221 BCE, the Kingdom of Qin unified China, and later launched a campaign against the Baiyue peoples. Back then, the region of Min was still a remote wilderness easily defended against external attack. Wuzhu’s refuge in Min protected him from the ravages of war and gave him an opportunity to plot his comeback.

In 209 BCE, the commoners Chen Sheng, Wu Guang launched the Dazexiang Uprising. When he caught wind of the news, Wuzhu gathered his brothers and fellow clan members at Pingshan – which was then a peninsula nestled between the rapids of the Minjiang River and the coastal bay – and sailed north.

When he reached Boyang, Wuzhu sought out Wu Rui, a leader of the uprising against the Qin, and became acquainted with the renowned general Qiongbu and the leader of Lingnan’s Nanyue (Southern Yue) tribes, Mei Xuan. Later on, Qiongbu declared allegiance to Xiang Yu, while Wu Rui continued to lead the Baiyue (Hundred Yue) troops, including Wuzhu and Mei Xuan, on the northern campaigns. By the time Liu Bang led troops into Xianyang, Wuzhu was already a seasoned field commander. Wuzhu managed to have an audience with Xiang Yu, the general who had led 400,000 troops into Hangu Pass (one of the strategic passes into Xianyang). Xiang Yu, later to be known as the Hegemon-King of Western Chu (xi chu bawang) named Qiongbu as the King of Jiujiang and Wu Rui as the King of Hengshan. Even Mei Xuan was named a marquis with a fief of ten thousand households (wanhu hou). However, Xiang Yu had nothing but disdain for Wuzhu, and “declined to bestow nobility upon him”.

Scorned by his encounter with Xiang Yu, Wuzhu left to throw his lot in with Liu Bang. Thus, the descendant of the King of Yue finally found a place to call home in the lands of Min. Wuzhu was also the first Min native to have his name recorded in history by the official court historians of the Han Dynasty.

Back from their long and arduous campaign, Wuzhu’s military vessels finally anchored at Pingshan. Enclaved by rivers and coastlines, and shielded by Fuzhou’s Yeshan Mountain, the Pingshan highlands were the perfect place for the King’s palaces. In peacetime, Wuzhu, as King, would go on to lead the people of Minzhong in drilling wells, developing farmland, and building cities.

For the next 50 years, there was no mention of the Kingdom of Minyue in records by official court historians. This implies that there were no wars or major natural disasters in the region, and that the people of Minyue were recovering from the devastation of war, with their capital well on the way to prosperity. Later on, in the Ming Dynasty, the poet Lin Hong would describe this as: Recall! At the height of Wuzhu’s glory, the expanse of his capital’s meandering walls. Fate would have that Wuzhu seize Qin land, and learn the rituals of Han, in robes adorned with dragons. Was Lin Hong right?

Yes. The majestic palaces of the Minyue capital were erected during Wuzhu’s time. Today, Fuzhou’s archaeologists have unearthed enormous rammed-earth foundations of Minyue palaces built over more than one period, which were hidden in the foothills of Pingshan. Their unique iron anchors and eave-end tiles bearing the characters chang le wan sui (enduring happiness and longevity), the pottery sherds bearing ancient versions of the character min (referring to Fujian) discovered at the site of the Fujian branch of the China Construction Bank… all of these artifacts have augmented the written historical record.

Today, visitors will find that the entrances to the Pingshan subway station at Guping Road are an imitation of the architectural styles of the Han Dynasty. The exterior walls are adorned with juanyun (“cirrus clouds”) eave-end tiles, which were popular during the Western Han Dynasty, and cordierite antefixes bearing the Chinese characters ye cheng (referring to the capital of the Minyue Kingdom) written in the style of Han Dynasty clerical script. 110 square meters of space have been reserved near Exit B of the Pingshan subway station for archaeological exhibitions. In addition, visitors to the Yeshan Chunqiu Park (Yeshan “Spring and Autumn” Park) near Exit D will find that even the metal casings for ground light fixtures are replicas of unearthed Han-era juanyun “longevity” eave-end tiles.

A large stone tablet has been erected at Yeshan Chunqiu Park, adjacent to Zhongshan Road, which reads wuzhu gucheng (literally “former city of Wuzhu”). Despite being separated by millennia, the people of Fuzhou have never forgotten that the capital of Wuzhu’s kingdom was the forerunner of their city.