Line 1 metro - What lurks in those tunnels?
The metro in Beijing is the most convenient and comfortable way to commute (except during rush hour). The hydra-like tracks under and above ground did not happen overnight. It all started back in 1965 when land was cleared to construct the network. The first line was Line 1. Shocker...
Legend has it that in the initial days of construction, the workers faced a lot of problems from equipment malfunctioning to horrific accidents. The locals believed that the development had infuriated the dead who had become homeless because of the digging and drilling. It is also believed that because Line 1 connects to Babaoshan (the cemetery), it held a certain sense of otherworldly spirit. To solve the problems, monks were brought in to perform ceremonies to put the souls at rest. It was decided that the metro would not run after 11pm (it is believed that 11pm to 1am is the time for souls to rest) except for one train that would do a lap without any live passengers to deliver the souls back to their resting place. Surprisingly, after this ceremony, there were no more troubles and the construction continued on without a hitch. Though the last metro in Beijing today runs past 11pm, if you are not adventurous, leave the last train to the spirits. You never know what lurks in those dark tunnels.
By the way, did you know that Line 1 extends to a few restricted stations beyond Pingguoyuan? Why? Some say it leads to a military base and others say it has secret bunker-like facility since 1950. The fact is that Line 1 of Beijing metro is shrouded with some mysteries.
In the heart of Beijing, surrounded by restaurants, bars, and cafés, Houhai Lake near Beihai North Subway station is about 700 years old and a favorite winter swimming spot. But on one fatal winter night in 1988, a few students had been playing on the frozen lake, but as fate would have it, the ice sheet cracked and gave way. The children were crying for help as the freezing water began to submerge them and they were unable to swim. A young soldier from the People’s Liberation Army named Yuan Mandu was around the spot and heard the students crying for help. He quickly jumped into the cold water without thinking of his own safety and saved all of the students, but unfortunately, could not save himself. Locals say that the soul of the brave soldier watches over people who swim in the lake even today.
Who screams at night?
68 wanguanhe lu, Haidian
Beijing’s Haidian area is a mix of old and new. Today, it has become a primary education and technology center, but places like the Summer Palace and Great Bell Temple and Museum talks about its past. Walk around the area and you will find many old buildings as well as newly constructed ones in the vicinity. Wanguanhe Lu, too, has witnessed the change, but house number 68 has a different story. The residents of that building and the surrounding area say that they hear screaming and shrieking at midnight.
Story has it that before the redevelopment of that block, there stood an old building where a woman had hung herself. Supposedly, the ghost of that woman haunts that block and the new building as well. The developer of that area had tried to get a fengshui master to solve the problem, but the master ran off immediately upon seeing the building and never returned. Next time you move to a new apartment, don’t forget to ask around.You would not want to wake up to some disturbing noise at the wee hours.
Tale of a Broken heart
Once the home of General Wu Sangui, the Songpo Library in Xicheng district houses the great literary works, the classics, the romantics, and undoubtedly some ghost stories. Once a faithful servant to Emperor Chongzhen during the Ming Dynasty, he defected from the army due to his love for a courtesan named Chen Yuanyuan. However, as tragic love stories go, he quickly became distracted by work and other women. Grief stricken and heart broken, Chen Yuanyuan committed suicide and since then, many have felt her presence at the place.
It rings to tell a tale
The story of Beijing’s Bell Tower is popular, but if you are new to the city (or have not heard it), then we are here to tell. During the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhu Di ordered the construction of a gigantic bell that could be heard from miles away. The artisans could not manage to make a bell of such stature even three years after it had been commissioned. The angry Emperor gave a dictum stating that if the bell was not completed within 80 days, all the artisans were to be beheaded. Days passed yet the furnace temperature could not be raised high enough to cast iron of that size. On the final day when all the artisans were scared of the inevitable, all of a sudden the daughter of the head artisan threw herself into the fire. Her father could not save her but only managed to grab hold of one of her embroidered shoes. It is said that her final sacrifice lit the fire to the exact heat required for the task and thus the bell was finally complete. People say that the bell rings with a sound like “Xie Xie… Xie Xie” which sounds like “thank you” or “shoe” in Chinese. Maybe the poor girl is still asking for her shoe or thanking the city for remembering her.
Tomb of General Yuan
When rumors kill
Who would believe that the busy district of Chonwenmen also has a spooky side to it? Zhongsitiao Huashi Dajie is the place haunted by the spirit of General Yuan. Beijing’s ghost stories primarily revolve around the ancient habitats of the city. General Yuan, though a loyal official during the Ming Dynasty, was put to a gruesome death by the then Emperor who was influenced by some malicious rumors against the general. The general was ordered to be executed by slow slicing, also known as 1,000 cuts. Rumor has it that the people of Beijing were so angry upon hearing about his supposed disloyalty that they even ate his remains. One of his followers somehow saved his head and buried it where his tomb stands today. Locals claim General Yuan wanders this area to seek revenge or maybe still guards the land as he had vowed to do even after death.
Huguang Huiguan, Opera House
We often come across announcements of theaters daring the audience to watch so-and-so horror movies alone, but in Xuanwu district, no one dares to mess with the courtyard of Huguang Huiguan Opera House. Currently, it is an opera museum where you can still catch a Peking Opera performance. So what is scary about the place? Before the construction of the opera house, it was the site of an ancient graveyard. During the Republic of China era, it was transformed into a shelter for the poor by a wealthy philanthropist, and the disturbed spirits of the dead wreaked havoc. The story says that the patron had hired a leper as a janitor and the ghosts fled seeing the disfigured man. But, the haunting resurfaced when the building became the Provincial Headquarter of Hunan and Guangdong. One can hear scolding if a stone is thrown into the courtyard even though nobody is there. It seems the ghosts prefer silence and want to be left at peace, and so do we.
Cao Xueqin' Former residence
Chinese Literature's most recognized novel Dream of the Red Chamber also known as The Story of the Stone mirrors the tale of the author’s family. Cao Xueqin belonged to a prominent and wealthy family who moved to a hutong in the alleys of Beijing when the family lost its fortune. He lived a modest life while writing the novel. Today, it is a prominent topic for journals, conferences, and publications. Its success has given a new direction for further research and study known as “redology.” However, the house which was the birthplace of this great novel is still intact in Xicheng district and has become a photography studio. Locals say that the sound of music played on stringed and wooden instruments, accompanied by a woman reciting poetry can be heard late at night. It stands to show that not all haunted houses are horror stories.
Who roams this street?
Is Ghost Street just a catchy name? No matter at what hour you stroll around Ghost Street, there’s nothing scary about the place. It’s filled with red lanterns and endless spicy crawfish restaurants. In the ancient times, the Dongzhimen Ghost Street served a different purpose. Dongzhimen (Eastern Gate) was where the recently deceased were allowed to exit the city through, thus leading to a rise in funeral-related necessities along the way. The most popular were coffins. Imagine the street, where instead of crawfish restaurants, were row after row of coffins, incense, and funeral paper. Creepy, huh? As time went by and the need to transport dead bodies through Ghost Street no longer existed, the street gradually began to shift into the F&B scene. It’s said that only restaurants can succeed on that street. The flow of constant (living) diners aside, Ghost Street remains one of the only places where ghosts who were greedy when they were alive (called thin neck ghosts) can eat and satisfy their eternal hunger.
Liuyin Street, Xicheng
The girl in the red dress
What are little girls made of? Sugar and spice, and all that's nice. What if meeting a little girl does not become a nice experience? In Liuyin Street of Xicheng area there is a story, about a little girl wearing a red full-length dress, who appears suddenly anywhere on the street with hair covering her face. Does it remind you of The Grudge series? The first woman to see her was so freaked out that she fainted and had to be institutionalized after regaining consciousness. People say that the little girl does not try to harm the living. In fact, she does not move but if you walk past her, she appears to have turned her head 180 degrees. Now that is enough to make your heart skip a beat.
Prince Gong's Mansion
In 1777, it was constructed for Heshen, the infamous corrupt official under Emperor Qianlong. When the new Emperor took to the throne, Heshen was arrested for all his misdeeds and was finally forced to commit suicide. Later in 1851, the mansion was handed to Prince Gong. According to folklore, the place has a supernatural presence. A popular tale tells of Heshen’s wife who died of remorse over her son’s death and can still be heard crying at midnight. Besides the elites, this mansion housed many concubines in the pages of history and some of their spirits are said to roam the garden at early dawn even today. The young son of a security guard for the mansion is said to have seen a group of women clad in beautiful robes crying in a room with makeup running down their cheeks one morning when the mansion was supposedly empty. The story of the Pearl Concubine’s mysterious corpse also took place here. She was the favorite of Prince Gong and brought drastic changes to the palace. Empress Cixi did not like her attitude and ordered to kill her by throwing her down a well. Months later when her body was recovered, she was found in perfect condition. Locals believe she was possessed and came back to avenge her death as Cixi did not live long after that. We cannot say whether the stories are true, but after dark, with the streetlights spilling through the willow trees, the locked mansion does look spooky.
The Forbidden City was the imperial residence during the Ming and Qing dynasties. Only the royals and elites could enter the place which was off limits to the commoners, thus the name. It had witnessed years of conspiracy and tragic incidents within its walls. You will be awestruck to see the massive structure which spans over 720,000 sqm but, can tour only half of it. Why? Maybe it's difficult to maintain such a big property or, as rumored, it is inhabited by ghosts. It is believed that the high doorsills trap the ghosts within the city, as ghosts cannot jump. Rumor has it that there’s a well inside where a concubine had committed suicide and continues to peer out at onlookers. Arguably, the well must have dried up. But what about those human-like apparitions in the corridors or the late night music that the guards talk about? Are they the souls of those 2,800 people who were slaughtered by Emperor Yongle? The most striking tale is of a guard named Fat Fu, who said to have encountered a woman with no face while on patrol. Some have also seen the roof-figures (yán shòu) coming alive and then vanishing in a corner. You may choose not to believe, but the guards close the gates at 5pm sharp every day. Nothing explains why the place becomes eerily cold after 5pm even on the hottest days and a sense of unease lingers behind the red walls.
The house that kills
Known to be the most celebrated haunted house of Beijing, this three-story French Baroque-style house with a porch and large windows remain shrouded in a cloud of mysteries. The popular legend states that in 1949, this was the residence of a Kuomintang high official. When the Nationalists fled, he abandoned his wife and left the country. His lonely devastated wife hung herself from the rafters of this house. Thereafter, it remained abandoned, which gave birth to some eerie tales. During the Cultural Revolution, the Red Guards lived there but left hastily without explanation, which sealed the suspicion regarding the hauntings. In more recent history, two construction workers who decided to explore the mysterious house disappeared without any explanation. Their bodies were later discovered in a storm drain. However, the government says that there is no record of any Kuomintang official's stay. They also say that the stories of construction workers mysteriously disappearing at the site is also hogwash. But, people of that area swear to have seen poltergeists and apparitions at the house. Few months back, the Beijing Morning Post reported that the house has received a facelift and doesn’t look spooky anymore. Nevertheless, the question still lingers whether the house is haunted or not.
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