After hesitating at the entrance for about ten minutes, Fatty finally stood up.
He was physically exhausted and limped a little when he walked, but after he got up, he slapped himself hard three times and then came up behind us and patted me, “Let’s go. It’s time to save those people.”
Those three slaps sounded very hard, so I knew that he was very tired. In fact, my willpower was the only thing keeping me going at this point. If we hadn’t been so focused on coming up with a logical theory just now, Fatty and I would’ve definitely been unable to lift our feet.
I followed Fatty inside, but Poker-Face quickly bypassed us and moved to take the lead. Fatty shivered as he lit another cigarette, but he was so exhausted that he didn’t have the energy to exhale the smoke and ended up coughing.
We had only been walking for about a minute before I started wondering if Poker-Face shouldn’t be the first to go in. I was worried that it would be harmful to him if we rushed in, but I no longer had the luxury of acting pretentious. Well, I actually didn’t have any strength left to act pretentious anymore. I knew that he wouldn’t let the two of us explore the path up ahead, and I also knew that we’d follow close behind him even if we were exhausted.
We walked silently through the very long passage until it became wider and taller. Then, a huge white stone door appeared in front of us. The stone was made of a snow white material that contrasted starkly with the black passage all around us.
The door had been carved from a single piece of stone and had Mongolian patterns on it, but its shape had been done in the Han style. The door was very huge—about six stories high—and had a plaque at the top with ancient Mongolian characters on it. I couldn’t understand what the characters said, though.
The stone door had already been opened and there were a bunch of messy footprints on the ground. I estimated that in addition to Xiao Hua and the others, several other teams had also gone in. We shined the flashlight into the stone door and found another tunnel inside that continued all the way down. It was very wide and had figurines on both sides of the tunnel. The style of these ceramic figurines were similar to the ones outside, but the ones here were all warriors. All of them looked very majestic with their glowering eyes and bowed heads.
But the things that attracted our attention the most were the guardian deity statues on both sides of the door. They each had three faces, but I recognized them at a glance—they looked like the huge corpse that had attacked us before.
They had been carved out of wood, which was still well preserved. Although the color had faded, you could still see the differences between the different shades that had originally been used. From where they stood on both sides of the door, we could see that they were three stories high and looked like they had been carved out of whole pieces of wood. But the weirdest thing was, I could see a face in each of the guardian deities’ mouths that was looking at us gloomily.
Fatty pointed his flashlight at one of the statues and made a face before saying to me, “Mr. Naïve, don’t you think it looks like those human-faced birds from the Heavenly Palace?”
I nodded. In fact, when that giant corpse had vomited Ping Lian into the coffin, Ping Lian didn’t have any skin, which was very similar to those monkeys that were in the human-faced birds’ mouths. Those skinless monkeys needed to live in the birds’ mouths in order to avoid infection. At that time, I had theorized that the birds’ saliva probably had a strong antibacterial agent, which created a harsh symbiotic relationship between the birds and the monkeys.
I didn’t know whether Jiang Siwang was a person or a ghost, but he wouldn’t allow cats or dogs to enter here. Did this kind of corpse eat cats and dogs and turn them into puppets in its mouth?
“I think this giant corpse is even more evil than those birds from the Heavenly Palace,” I said as I looked at the statues. “Or, it’s more primitive.”
There wasn’t a realistic basis for this statement, but it was what I instinctively felt: the things in the Heavenly Palace had an evil aura around them, but they still gave off the feeling that they were from the Bronze Age and their overall setup was complete.
This giant corpse’s outfit and state gave off a strong sense that it was from the tribal period. And based on how heavily witchcraft seemed to factor in, I believed that the giant corpse was more primitive, almost along the lines of the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors period.(1)
But it was just a feeling, and I was too embarrassed to discuss it further, so I planned on entering the huge door without saying anything else. The tunnel behind the door already looked like the main tomb passage, so the world’s second most valuable tomb should be at the end of it.
The three of us went in and found that the tunnel was about three hundred meters long. When we reached the end, we came to a large circular tomb chamber. It had a huge spirit screen(2) in the middle of it that was blocking the back exit.
A very exquisite relief sculpture had been carved out of the brick above the spirit screen, and when I illuminated it with my flashlight, I found that it was actually a group of relief sculptures created with a Tibetan Buddhist theme. There was either a god or a Buddha statue set up in the middle upper part while countless guardian deities and other figures were on the sides.
These extraneous figures were so densely packed together that we couldn’t even begin to count them, but the three of us were very familiar with Tibetan Buddhism (for special reasons of course). I could tell at a glance that the idol in the middle wasn’t any Buddha or god in existence. It was completely made up, almost like someone had assembled a bunch of different characters into one statue. Its face was very similar to the Buddha statue outside, which made me think that this was the tomb owner.
In Tibetan Buddhism, there were so many complex gods and Buddhas that people who didn’t know the tricks wouldn’t be able to recognize them all. But I happened to know the trick.
I continued examining the relief sculpture and noticed that there were a lot of black figures among the middle idol’s entourage. I touched my chin and fell deep in thought.
Along the way, I always felt that what happened in this place was very chaotic, but when I saw this relief sculpture, I suddenly realized that it wasn’t chaotic at all. This relief sculpture was actually the answer.
The idea behind the ancient tomb architect’s design had finally appeared: it simulated the state of the tomb owner after he became a Buddha.
(1) The Bronze Age is approximately 3300 BC to 1200 BC while the Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors period is from 2852 BC to 2205 BC. The Three Sovereigns and Five Emperors were mythological rulers of China. The Three Sovereigns were: Fuxi, Nüwa, and Shennong. The Five Emperors were: The Yellow Emperor, Zhuanxu, Emperor Ku, Emperor Yao, and Emperor Shun. More info here.
(2) Also called a spirit wall or screen wall. It’s used to prevent spirits from entering the entrance gate in traditional Chinese architecture. Spirit screens can either be positioned on the outside or inside of the gate they are protecting, but this one is a zhaobi (照壁) which is only on the outside. More info here.
Man, I said it once but I’ll say it again: afternoon appointments are the way to go. I was in and out in less than an hour. As such, I present this chapter as tribute~~