A couple weekends back, students told a city mate there was a /castle/ in our city called Yelang Valley (夜郎谷), so we determined to visit.
On a drizzly Saturday morning, we hopped on a bus to find this mysterious castle. Baidu Maps promised an hour and 45 minute journey. I thought this meant a long ride through unfamiliar territory but was shocked to recognize the route as the way to Huaxi’s University Town, where I teach writing each week.
Turns out, I’ve been riding past the forest where the castle is every single week for the last three months. 😑
The stone structures and castle are the realization of a man named Song Peilun, an architect who was inspired by South Dakota’s Crazy Horse Memorial and wanted to build his own monument to the YeLang civilization that lived in the forested area 2,000 years ago.
As we reached the entrance to YeLang, I pointed out a man walking toward us who looked like the most Chinese-looking dude I’ve ever seen. His long grey hair spilled down his shoulders, onto a linen Tang suit. He carried a plastic umbrella and greeted our awkward group of foreigners with a jovial “ni hao.”
We passed a stone arch and then saw a giant photo of the man who just greeted us, realizing the man who had just said hello was the architect of YeLang.
If there’s one thing that’s abundant in Guizhou, it’s rocks. Everything’s a mountain and a hill. So mountains and hills are what the YeLang castles and monuments are made of.
The complex is a sprawling monument of stone and terra-cotta faces, wooden houses, with a radioactively colored algae-laden river running through it.
Guiyang’s Finance and Economics University has popped up by it and so the ancient-looking valley is directly neighbored by a sports stadium and several dormitories. The juxtaposition is weird and my site-mates and I wondered what Song Peilun feels about the school colliding into his dream.
Like many places in modernizing China, YeLang is still under construction, and the sounds of moving earth and cranes occasionally broke the peaceful morning air. Beside the impressive stone structures and sculptures, were large piles of construction materials and rubbish. YeLang is really an amalgamation of styles, a remix of traditional and modern. It is both impressive and baffling. I still don’t know what I think about it.