Sunday, January 11, 2009

Graves of Meng Xiaodong and Du Yuesheng

The China Times reported the other day the Chinese tourists are asking to be taken to the graves of Meng Xiaodong and famous Shanghai gangster Du Yuesheng. Meng has been made famous as the lover of Mei Lanfang by the new Chen Kaige fim Forever Enthralled about the Beijing Opera star.

After leaving Mei in the 1930s, Meng Xiaodong became the concubine and eventually fifth wife of Du. She moved to Taiwan in the 1960s, died in 1977, and is buried at the public Buddhist cemetery at Jinglu Temple淨律寺 at Shanjia, Shulin in Taipei County. The calligraphy for the inscription on her tomb is by the painter (and notorious forger) Zhang Daqian. According to the article, it reads 杜母孟太夫人墓 or the Tomb of Mrs. Du nee Meng.

Even more interesting is Du's tomb in suburban Xizhi. Du died in Hong Kong in 1951 and was buried in Taiwan in 1952. None other than Chiang Kai-shek provided the calligraphy for the inscription on Du's tomb: 義節聿昭. This can rendered 'His love of justice burned bright'. Justice (yi) is of the cardinal virtue of Chinese gangsters in the anti-Ming tradition as seen in phrases like titian xingyi (to do justice on behalf of heaven 替天行義). Chiang is openly refering to his close association with the Shanghai mob and Du in particular that culminated in the purges of unions and communists in 1927.

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