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Travel Guide
Travel Guide

Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Emperors, located at the foot of Tianshoushan Mountain in Changping District of Beijing with an area of forty square kilometers. The Tombs recorded the most part of the Ming Dynasty history since the construction of Chang Tomb in 1409 until the Chongzhen Emperor was buried in the Si Tomb in 1644. Construction of the imperial mausoleums spanned more than two hundred years, almost throughout the entire Ming Dynasty.



The mausoleums have been perfectly preserved, as has the necropolis of each of the many emperors. The Tombs, strict in tomb locations selection, unique in designs, delicate in constructions, meticulous in building materials using, are the typical examples of Chinese imperial mausoleum constructions. In the mausoleum area, besides tombs of 13 Emperors, 23 Empresses, and dozens of immolated imperial concubines, there are still seven tombs of imperial concubines, one tomb of eunuch, imperial palaces and imperial gardens. The historical sites and relics are all material evidences for studies of burial system, funeral standards, sacrifice offering procedures, personnel system, architectural technology and technique, politics, economics, culture, military in the Ming Dynasty. The layout and arrangement of all thirteen mausoleums are very similar but vary in size as well as in the complexity of their structures.
 

The entire tomb site is surrounded by walls totalling 40 kilometres. Each tomb is located at the foot of a separate hill and is linked with the other tombs by a road called the Sacred Way which means the road leading to heaven. The stone archway at the southern end of the Sacred Way was build in the 19th year of Jiajing in the Ming Dynasty (1540 AD). The Stone Memorial Archway, 14 metres high, has 5 gates and 6 stone columns. It is the biggest and earliest extant stone archway in China. Both sides of the stone column under the archway were carving with elegant relief: eight pairs of lions playing with a ball and sixteen vivid flying dragons. Behind the stone archway is the Great Palace gate. It is the front gate of the tomb zone.



The Stele Pavilion, not far from the Great Palace Gate, is actually a pavilion with a double-eaved roof. On the back of the stele is carved poetry written by Emperor Qianlong of the Qing Dynasty when he visited the Ming Tombs.

The Sacred Way inside the gate of the Ming Tomb is lined with 18 pairs of stone human figures and animals.

The stone statures are invaluable. It includes 4 lions, 4 Xie, 4 camels, 4 elephants, 4 Qilin and 4 horses, in pairs with one standing and another kneeling down. Lion symbolizes awesome solemnity because of their ferocity. Camel and elephant are meant to suggest the vastness of the territory controlled by the court, because they are dependable transport in desert and tropics. Xiezhi was put there to keep evil spirits away, because it was believed to possess the sixth sense to tell right and wrong. If two men fight, a xiezhi would gore the wicked one. Qilin, an auspicious symbol, was placed on two sides. Horse, as the emperor's mount, is absolutely indispensable. It is said that these animals is supposed to change guard at midnight. Four civil officials, 4 military officials and 4 meritorious officials follow them, symbolizing those who assist the emperor in the administration of the state. It adds up to 18 pairs, 36 statues. They stand face to face on the flank of the Sacred Tomb Avenue with imposing feature.

At the end of the stone statues is the Lingxing Gate, normally called Dragon and Phoenix Gate. Because people called the emperor's death "funeral of heaven", so it also means the heaven gate. The gate has three paths, every gate separated by dwarf walls.



Dingling is the first excavated imperial tombs and the largest tomb among them, so it becomes an important scenic spot in thirteen tombs today. It is the tomb of Emperor Shenzong Zhuyijun (the 13th Ming emperor and the longest Ming ruler), and his two empresses, Xiaoduan and Xiaojing. The underground palace lies 27 meters below the surface and has 5 halls: an antechamber, central hall, rear hall and left and right annexes. The vaulted halls are built of stone. A stone door stands between the antechamber and central hall. At the end of the central hall is the rear hall which is the largest hallt. On both sides of the central hall are tomb passages and stone doors opening to the left and right annexes.
 

The construction above the ground of Dingling is unique too. There is well preserved Minglou (Bright Tower), in front of which set up Dingling Unearthed Relics Display Room. It displays all the valuable excavated unearthed relics and treasures, which belong to Emperor Shenzong and his two empresses. All these deserve a good enjoyment.".arrowToTop()."