The ruins at Yangshan [credit: Vmenkov]

The Unexplainable Ruins of Yanmen Shan Mountain

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Along the side of Yanmen Shan mountain, located twenty kilometers to the east of Nanjing, China, the legendary Yangshan quarry can be found. Although it is believed to have been in use from at least the time of the Six Dynasties (220 – 589 AD), the majority of the work at Yangshan is still attributed to the wave of construction that took place after the Ming dynasty was founded in 1368 AD, when the new emperor, Zhu Yuanzhang, chose nearby Nanjing to become his capital city.

As the story goes, the Emperor’s son ordered the construction of a gigantic stele in 1405 AD for the Ming Xiaoling mausoleum; which had been built for his father, by his father, and was then later completed during the reign of his son. The Yangshan mountain quarry was chosen by the city’s stone-masons. They were then said to have cut and crafted three enormous blocks from the mountain side before finally coming to the realization that the blocks they’d been cutting were far-too big. At which point, they abandoned the effort in favor of a more realistic project.

How big were these blocks that they mistakenly sized-up?

The stele that these masons did end up creating for the Emperor is 6.7 meters tall—8.78, if you include the height of the stone tortoise it’s perched on—and, altogether with the tortoise, would weigh right around 100 tons. If assembled, the stele that they were said to have mistakenly attempted would have been over eight times as tall—73 meters high—and over three-hundred and ten times its weight—31,000 tons. For reference, a typical car weighs between 1 and 1.5 tons; the largest monolith, in the ancient and modern world, is the 1,250-ton Thunder Stone moved by Russia in 1770, resembling a rough outcropping that was never carved.

The stele that was built for the Emperor’s mausoleum [credit: Vmenkov]

The stele that was built for the Emperor’s mausoleum [credit: Vmenkov]

One part of the stele that was claimed to have been cut out for the Emperor; it is hundreds of times bigger than anything man has ever been known to have moved [credit: Vmenkov]

One part of the stele that was claimed to have been cut out for the Emperor; it is hundreds of times bigger than anything man has ever been known to have moved [credit: Vmenkov]

A Monumental Failure

If taken as the authentic history it’s presented as, this story should be alarming for a number of reasons:

What could have led the Emperor’s master masons to believe that they could transport three blocks, totaling 31,000 tons, twenty kilometers through the mountains?

How could the construction of the Emperor’s grand gift to his father have been entrusted to such a thoroughly incompetent group? Especially when considering that, overall, this was many, enormous blunders taking place over a very long period and would have involved a substantial number of people: it seems preposterous that the effort wouldn’t have been halted almost immediately, let alone being allowed to begin in the first place.

The severe differences in the size, placement, and shape of the cuts indicates that they were never meant to be placed together or even moved. If they were, they also wouldn’t have all been cut at the same time and in such disparate fashions.

Consider the long-running conflict that was being fought with the Mongols, which was soaking up much of their resources and attention, and the fact that, only years later, the country’s bankrupt treasury couldn’t even manage to find the funds to create a single print of their newly created encyclopedia. This strenuous period doesn’t exactly appear to be the time to embark on one of the most immense engineering projects known to man, a project that would have amounted to nothing more than an art piece.

Enormous cut stones at Yangshan [credit: Vmenkov]

Enormous cut stones at Yangshan [credit: Vmenkov]

More Than a Quarry

There hardly seems to be a need to reconcile this curious tale as a quick review of the site reveals a multitude of inclusions that would never have been made if the site was simply a quarry.

For instance, in the image above, three outcroppings of rock can be seen. These, at first, might be seen as sites to attach ropes. However, their placement quickly deflates this idea. They can only be found on some of the stones, and they’re also clustered on a single side on some of those stones. Many of the protrusions are also fully rounded and would make for poor grips for rope. Certain ones are also beneath the area where the block would have been cut.

Also, as can be seen in the same image, smooth cylindrical segments have been removed in a place that would serve no purpose if the blocks were to be removed.

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