Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Historical Context: Sung Wong Toi

The Sung Wong Toi (宋王臺) is a memorial dedicated to the last two Song Dynasty emperors. It is located in Kowloon, Hong Kong, where the two emperors had taken refuge before the demise of the dynasty. It was the only time a reigning emperor visited Hong Kong.

In the waning days of the Song Dynasty, the Mongolians invaded the Song capital, forcing the young Emperor Gong (宋恭帝) and his regent, the Grand Empress Dowager, to surrender. Loyal officials of the Song court fled south with the emperor’s two brothers. In Fuzhou, they crowned Emperor Gong’s elder brother as the new Emperor Duanzong (宋端宗).

From Fuzhou, the group continued their retreat southwards. They eventually arrived in Hong Kong, near the Kowloon area. They stayed for about half a year before having to flee from the Mongolian army again. As the group travelled aboard a ship en route to Guangdong, they encountered a typhoon. Emperor Duanzong fell from the ship and nearly drowned. Though he was saved, he got sick and later died from his illness.

His younger brother, now the only remaining descendant of the royal line, was promptly crowned as Emperor Bing (宋帝昺). But his reign was brief as the pressure from the Mongolians became insurmountable. Less than a year into his reign, the Song army was annihilated in the Battle of Yamen. Knowing that all was lost, the Prime Minister carried the young Emperor on his shoulders and jumped from a cliff to officially end the Song Dynasty.

Afterwards, local residents engraved the words “Song Wong Toi” (宋王臺) on a large rock atop the “Sacred Hill” to commemorate the two emperors. Apparently, they purposely used the character 「王」 (meaning “king”) instead of 「皇」 (meaning “emperor”) to avoid angering the new rulers of the Yuan Dynasty.

There are two stories as to why the particular rock was chosen for the memorial. The first version was because the rock was a favourite resting spot of the emperor during his time in Kowloon. The second version tells of a time when the emperor was running away from the Mongolians. With seemingly nowhere to go, the rock opened up in a nick of time to allow the emperor to hide inside.

The current memorial is only 1/3 of its original size because it had been partially destroyed during World War II. Fortunately, the inscription of the three characters remained in one piece. It was moved from its original spot to a nearby memorial garden. 

Related Posts:
Overview - Always and Ever
Historical Context - Always and Ever Characters 
Famous Justice Bao Cases

No comments:

Post a Comment