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Xu Xiake and his "Temple of Doom"

updated: 2008-12-18

Xu Xiake is something like China's real-life Indiana Jones.
Every year, about 50,000 people flock to the Xu Xiake Memorial in Jiangsu province's Jiangyin county to pay homage to China's most famous traveler-cum-adventurer, who was mysteriously poisoned to death in 1641.
The Chinese travel saint's former residence is today the only national cultural heritage protection site in the county, the strategic position of which meant it was often ravaged by wars, so that few relics survived.
Xu journeyed through 13 of modern China's provinces - Beijing, Hebei, Shandong, Anhui, Henan, Fujian, Hubei, Jiangxi, Hunan, Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan and Zhejiang.
He mostly trekked on foot and was robbed three times.

When a monk he was traveling with to Yunnan was murdered in the final heist, Xu carried his ashes and wrote "crossing 72 mountains, 15 hills, 10 caves, 38 wells and 25 rivers" to Jizhushan Temple, according to his diary.
It was his last trip. Unable to walk after he was mysteriously poisoned, he took a boat home, where he died half a year later at the age of 56.
The explorer also conducted the first research on limestone karst formations more than 150 years before the Europeans and traced the Yangtze to what he believed was its source in Jinsha. Although he was several thousand kilometers short of the actual headwaters, he had explored the river further than anyone else.
Xu chronicled his exploits in a diary, which was transformed into the travelogue The Travel Diaries Xu Xiake, first published by his great-grandson in 1776.

(China Daily News)


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