The Ming Tombs' area is at a distance of 50 km northwest of Beijing. 13 emperors of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) were buried here, thus the name.
Construction of the tombs started in 1409, almost the same period with the construction of Forbidden City and other temples, palaces. In over 200 years tombs were built over an area of 40 square kilometers, which is surrounded by walls totaling 40 kilometers. All the 13 tombs are independently scattered and linked with the other tombs by a road called the Sacred Way.
According to the ancient belief "all land under the heaven belongs to the emperor" and the emperors regarded their death is just a continuation of life in another world, so Fengshui played a very important role in choosing the burial site that he could still enjoy luxury and good health after death. So the emperors in ancient times ordered to have their tombs built many years before their real deaths, in the purpose of occupying the most ideal site with the best Fengshui.(similar with that of Geomancy or fortune-telling).This area owns two hills –Dragon hill and Tiger hill standing on the east and west like the generals guarding the gateways to the south; Rolling hills formed a natural screen to the north, wenyu river flows east from northwest towards the Great Hebei plain. All of these pleased the Emperor Yongle, the first emperor who was the first host of the tombs, thus the emperor renamed the hill "Heavenly Longevity Hill".
The stone archway at the southern end of the Sacred Way, built in 1540, is 14 meters high and 19 meters wide, and is decorated with designs of clouds, waves and divine animals. Well-proportioned and finely carved, the archway is one of the best preserved specimens of its kink in the Ming Dynasty. It is also the largest ancient stone archway in China.
The Stele Pavilion, not far from the Great Palace Gate, is actually a pavilion with a double-eaves 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. These include four each of three types of officials: civil, military and meritorious officials, symbolizing those who assist the emperor in the administration of the state, plus four each of six iypes of animals: lion, griffin, camel, elephant, unicorn and horse.
Yongling, built in 1536, is the tomb for Emperor Shizong, Zhu Houcong (1507-1566). He stayed in power for 45 years.
The Dingling Tomb is the tomb of Emperor Wanli (reigned 1573-1619), the 13th emperor of the Ming Dynasty, whose personal name was Zhu Yijun, and of his two empresses, Xiao Duan and Xiao Jing. The tomb was completed in six years (1584-1590), it occupies a total area of 1,195 square meters at the foot of Dayu Mountain southwest of the Changling Tomb.
Emperor Xianzong, Zhu Jianshen, and his three empresses are entombed within Maoling. Zhu Jianshen (1447-1487) was the first son of Emperor Yingzong. He stayed in power for 22 years.
We have covered some of the most significant tombs of the 13 Ming tombs in the tour. If you are also interested in the other tombs, the best way is to come and experience yourself.
Changling is the tomb of emperor Yongle (reigned 1403-1424), the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty whose personal name was Zhu Di, and of his empress. Built in 1413, the mausoleum extends over an area of 100,000 square meters. The soul tower, which tells people whose tomb it is, rests on a circular wall called the "city of treasures" which surrounds the burial mound. The "city of treasures" at Changling has a length of more than a kilometer.
The underground palace at Dingling Tomb consists of an antechamber, a central chamber and a rear chamber plus the left and right annexes. One of the pictures shows the central chamber where the sacrificial utensils are on display. Two marble doors are made of single slabs and carved with life-size human figures, flowers and birds. More than 3,000 articles have been unearthed from the tumulus, the most precious being the golden crowns of the emperor and his queen.