I love discovering historical buildings hidden in Beijing, especially the ones that are located out of the old city center, like the former Tsinghua Yuan Railway Station. I thank my friend Wang Kun for randomly posting a picture of this place on Wechat as he passed by it. I went to check the place out directly after. I was not disappointed! Lost in the jungle of ugly buildings and skyscrapers, this family tomb carries the mysterious French name « Famille Lou ».
As one notices, even if it is a protected piece of historical heritage (as you can see on the door), this tomb has been left in decay for many years and has not been renovated yet.
As a true explorer, even of the door was locked, I found a way into the tomb and I could appreciate the many elements which make this small space very special in Beijing. However, it was getting dark and I have to apologize for the very poor quality of the photos taken inside (no tripod, no good flashlight)…
But first of all, let me tell you more about this mystery family whose name is « Lou »…
Lou Tseng-Tsiang: a diplomat/monk in modern China
Actually, this tomb was designed for the family of a very famous historical character: Lou Tseng-Tsiang. Lou Tseng-Tsiang (1871-1949) was a Chinese diplomat born in Shanghai 1.
He was Minister of Foreign Affairs from 1915 until 1920 and represented China at the conference of the Versaille Treaty in 1919, where he refused to sign the document because of the famous article 151 transfering to Japan the German concession in Shandong province. During this period, he bought a piece of land in a cemetary of Beijing in order to move his family tomb from Shanghai to the capital city.
About Lou’s religious orientations, he was a protestant who converted to catholicism. After the death of his wife in 1926, he became a monk of Saint Benedict in Belgium and was made priest in 1935.
Multiple stone carvings
Inside the tomb, the small space contrasts with the rich and diverse decorating elements. Western references, such as an altar in the center, are combined with Chinese characters written all over the walls. Indeed the four walls of the tomb display many references of the late Qing dynasty, with dedications to world famous characters like Yuan Shikai, Duan Qirui, Li Yuanhong, the last emperor Pu Yi, Kang Youwei, etc. In total, there were references to more than 50 famous names carved in the stone!
One can also see ancient-style characters on the walls.
Not only are the walls very rich in terms of elements, but also the ceiling was an amazing discovery.
Painted angels on the ceiling
As one can notice, this tomb reveals once again a very interesting mixture of European and Chinese references. On the ceiling, there are still traces of a painted sky with flying angels, very unusual in China.
During the Cultural Revolution, the tomb was seriously damaged, especially many elements of the altar and decorations disappeared, except for the stone carvings as those inscriptions were made on granite. Therefore they survived. Since that time, the « Lou family » tomb was used as a warehouse to store various unused things… what a pity! This very rare tomb definitely needs rehabilitation.
If you like historical buildings in Beijing, I recommend you read my report about the former Sino-French University.