So I am unsure whether fragrance is something that anyone – concubine or otherwise – should necessarily aspire to be remembered by. It strikes me as at least ambiguous whether being fragrant is a good thing. But the information panels at the beautiful tomb just outside of Kashgar insist that the concubine contained therein “had an exceptional aroma from birth”. Still ambiguous, I feel. Good exception? Bad exception?
The same panels recount the story of this scented concubine. She was part of the imperial harem in Beijing in the seventeenth century where she was one of the Emperor’s favourites.”Love between this Uighur maid and the Emperor is evidence for great unity among different ethnic groups” they claim. Okay, so, a couple of things about this. First of all, I’m not convinced that the literal prostitution of ethnic minorities by the ruling powers in Beijing is really the kind of metaphor for national unity you want to champion, however accurate it may remain. Second, there is an Uighur story about the concubine that runs in quite a different direction. She was an independence leader in the Uighur version, who was taken to Beijing against her will, and away from her lover, and she died of a broken heart. Put that on your panels, China.
The tomb itself really is stunning. We especially appreciated the delightfully asymmetrical tiles that cover it in different patterns. We were less enticed by “take picture place” which offered costumes so you could dress up like a concubine. And odd addition to an otherwise peaceful and beautiful place.