General Tso’s Chicken is a staple of American Chinese food, but few people stop to think of the man it is named after, General Zuo Zongtang. While he is relatively unknown in the States, he is a revered general in China and his grave is requisitely grand.
The view of General Zuo Zongtang in Chinese history could be related to the way that famed Civil War generals are considered in the American historical canon. Coincidentally, Zongtang is well-known for his role in quelling a Chinese civil conflict known as the Taiping Rebellion.
When the general died in 1885, he was buried in Changsha, capitol of Hunan Province. It is unclear why he was not buried in Xiangyin, Hunan. His gravesite is a stone amphitheater that girdles a short dome. Although his tomb is locked, the friendly caretaker will open the gate. He may ask visitors to sign a guestbook, which shows someone drops by to pay his or her respects every several months. The tomb is simple by Chinese standards for famous people, and well-maintained. It is actually the second built on this site, as the first was vandalized during the Cultural Revolution.
The spicy chicken dish that bears his name was not actually invented until the 20th century, yet to most Westerners it is all they know of Zongtang. While his namesake dish is surrounded by broccoli and chili peppers, the General himself rests in a somewhat more tranquil setting.
Know Before You Go
It located approximately 15 minutes from Changsha's South Railway station. The easiest is to have a taxi take you. Since this is a more out of the way location, ask the taxi to wait.