Guarding the legacy of emperors

Updated: 2013-04-04 01:50

By WANG XIAODONG (China Daily)

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Guarding the legacy of emperors

Qi Zhenxiang, a keeper of the Yongling mausoleums, can watch the site on a computer. Cui Meng / China Daily

Modern technology has also made the work of the keepers much easier.

A complete anti-theft system has been installed in the Royal Mausoleum of Ming, the 80-square-kilometer cemetery of the 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty and a World Heritage site, according to the Ming Tombs Special Administration in Beijing. Other equipment that has been widely adopted at the site — located 50 km outside Beijing — such as cameras, has also greatly reduced the burden of tomb keepers like Li.

In Yongling Mausoleum alone, 11 cameras have been installed since 2006, at every corner and covering the entire area, according to Li.

"Besides checking on site, we can also check the entire mausoleum at our computer screen at the office, so on rainy days we don't have to go out to check so often," Li said.

The simple office for Li's team sits near the gate of the mausoleum and is less than 10 square meters. Inside, three large screens linked to the cameras give a real-time display of key areas, including the interiors of some buildings.

Qi Zhenxiang, a colleague of Li, was on duty sitting in front of a screen.

A single bed lies on the other side of the room, making it a temporary dorm.

"We usually work here and go back to our village to have meal," Li said.

Both Li and Qi live in Yongling village, one named after the mausoleum, which is only 10 minutes' walk away.

"My ancestors came to the village several hundreds years ago during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) as tomb keepers," Li said. "I don't know which generation I am."

Like Yongling Mausoleum, every mausoleum of the Royal Mausoleum of Ming is located near a village named after the mausoleum.