Men on a mission

By Zhao Xu | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-25 10:24
Men on a mission

[Photo provided to China Daily]

Castiglione left behind a sizable number of works, but for some buried here, the gravestones are the only physical reminder of their remarkable lives. The day of my visit, blinding autumnal sun turned the stone monuments into gray canvasses for the interplay of light and shadow, an interplay that helped to accentuate the relief carving on the stone's surface.

While the centers of the tombstones are often inscribed-sometimes in both Chinese and Latin-with the name and major life events of the deceased, the heavily-carved base often features traditional Chinese patterns of water and clouds, from which a winged horse like one from Western mythology might arise.

Almost without exception, the tops of the tombstones are occupied by two writhing dragons, the symbol of royal power. Just below, as if protected by the ferocious animals, is a cross.

Related: On his majesty's service, and at his mercy


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