Shenzhen: Prayers at the tomb of the boy-king

Prayers for the Last Emperor of the Southern Song Dynasty.

The Mongol army’s conquest was almost complete. China’s Song Dynasty lay in ruins at the hands of the invaders. The imperial court sent the emperor’s brothers, two young princes (and heirs), aged seven and nine, south to Guangdong Province. There, resistance and the dynasty, would continue.

The eldest, Zhao Shi, was declared emperor but became ill and died while holding court in what is now Kowloon (Hong Kong). The younger brother, Zhao Bing, took to the throne.

The Song army was defeated in southern China at the Battle of Yamen in 1279. Rather than let the emperor be taken prisoner, a court official, Lu Xiufu, grabbed the young royal and leapt into the sea.

The body of a child, clothed in the yellow dragon-embroidered robes of the emperor, washed up on the shore of Chiwan, near Shekou (now part of Shenzhen, Guangdong Province). After prayers at the nearby Tian Hou Temple, local people buried the boy on a hillside, facing the sea.

The tomb is a popular place with visitors and was granted historic status by local government officials. Prayers and offerings are left for the boy-king who died rather than surrender.