In the middle of the busy and modern city of Beijing is an old tomb of a Chinese hero hidden away. And the Tomb of General Yuan is said to be haunted by the military leader who were framed and sentenced by the death of a thousand cuts. 

The Tomb of General Yuan is shrouded in mystery and legend as it is said to be haunted by the one that resides in it. It is the tomb of a famed General of China who died in 1630 after he was framed by his own court and sentenced as a traitor to the country he gave his life to protect. 

The final resting place of General Yuan Chonghuan is hard to find as it is smacked in the middle of the busy city of Beijing. In a small park behind apartment buildings and offices there is a small memorial house and museum for him that a certain family has been protecting since he died. 

Who Was General Yuan?

General Yuan Chonghuan (袁崇煥) was one of the most important figures in Chinese history and is remembered as a national hero today. He lived from 1584 to 1630 during the Ming Dynasty and is best known for his defense against the Jurchen tribes coming from the north and regarded as a great patriot of the country. 

General Yuan Chonghuan was a well traveled man and is said to have taken a particular interest in European cannons to use in the military as his speciality. He quickly rose through the ranks after passing his imperial examination, even though he didn’t really have any formal military training prior to working his way up. 

The History of the Ming Dynasty

General Yuan Chonghuan is perhaps best known for protecting China’s southwestern borders and Liaoning from attacks from Jurchen and Mongolian forces under the rule of the Tianqi Emperor. 

His greatest military achievement was defeating the Later Jin ruler, Nurhaci in the first Battle of Ningyuan in 1626. General Yuan managed to hold back 130 000 of Nurhaci’s soldiers with just 9000 of his own. 

In the last years before his arrest and execution he served as the governor in Liaodong, a place of great importance to him in life, and if we are to believe the legend, also in death.

Death by a Thousand Cuts

Although he is remembered as a hero today, he died a traitor. His fame also gave him a lot of enemies and he was accused of treason and collaborating with the enemy he was a part of defeating. 

The Chongzhen Emperor had General Yuan arrested in 1630 and despite lack of evidence he was sentenced to death by lingchi, or death by a thousand cuts, a punishment meant for the most severe crimes and heinous criminals. 

Apparently, General Yuan last words before his execution was a poems he produced that went like: 

“A life’s work always ends up in vain; half of my career seems to be in dreams. I do not worry about lacking brave warriors after my death, for my loyal spirit will continue to guard Liaodong.”

According to the imperial records it took half a day to day and according to legend people were so enraged thinking that he had betrayed his country that they lined up to buy and eat his remains as soon as they were sliced off his body. 

His Reputation Restored After a Century

After the execution, there was only his head that remained, which  a guard named She brought outside the walls of Beijing to bury. He and his family were assigned to guard his tomb, which they did for generations to come, and the last caretaker is said to have died in 2021 in her 80s after a lifetime of caretaking of the Yuan Chonghuan Memorial and tomb. 

After the fall of the Ming Dynasty nearly a century later it was replaced by the Qing Dynasty and the Emperor Qianlong. He was the one finding the evidence in the imperial archives that General Yuan had been framed and ordered to restore his reputation and find his descendants to be compensated. They were never found. 

The Haunted Tomb of General Yuan

Over the years the tomb has gotten a haunted reputation and it is said that it is General Yuan that is haunting his final resting place that the She family has been guarding since his death. 

He vowed that his soul would guard the Liaodong Peninsula forever. Who is to say his exact reasons to haunt the place? To revenge those who wronged him? Or perhaps he did as he said and will forever guard the land?

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Museums of Beijing: Yuan Chonghuan Memorial – Koryo Tours

Yuan Chonghuan – Wikipedia 

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