The Ming Tombs of Beijing is also known to the Chinese as "Thirteen Ming Tombs" as there are totally 13 emperors from Ming Dynasty buried in the area covering 40 square kilometers (15.4 square miles).It took 200 years to finish the whole complex. The "Sacred Road", which runs about 7 kilometers(4.3miles)from south to north, was originally built to lead to the head tomb of the Ming Tombs - Chang Tomb(Emperor Yongle's tomb), but as the following tombs were arranged with to the east or west of the Chang Tomb, it became the main road to all of them. Nowadays, the section used as the scenic spot is about 1.2 mile long but with the most impressive scenery of the whole length. There're Marble Archway, Great Palace Gate, Tablet tower, Stone Statues and Dragon-phoenix Gate arranged along the road, thus made it vivid and worth visiting by the tourists.
Marble Archway is a memorial structure, which is used to mark the tomb area, besides, to commemorate the meritorious deeds and promote feudal virtues. The Sacred Road use to pass beneath the archway.
Great Palace Gate is the main entrance of the tomb area, built in 1426.Wall use to stretch out from both sides of the gate to enclose the whole tomb area, but it has been turned down to make way for the new ways nowadays. Three passages in the gate: the middle one was used for the deceased emperor only, and the living emperor, other officials etc. had to take the side ones to go through. As a forbidden place, no ordinary people were allowed to come in, horses to go in.
Tablet Tower is the tower housing a huge tablet of 7.9 meters, bearing the inscription ere, cultivating land, fetching soil, cut wood from the tomb area, or their whole family would be chopped. Even the living emperor and officials accompanied had to get off sedan chair and words of "Divine Merits and Sagely virtues of Changling of the Great Ming" and 3000 Chinese characters’ article by the fourth Ming Emperor to record his father's expedition to Nanjing, moving capital to Beijing and his battles in the desert north of the Great Wall. The tablet is arranged on the back of a tortoise like mythical animal called "BiXi", which is said to be one of the nine sons of the dragon, with the function of carrying huge stone or tablet on the back. People have a saying nowadays that: touching the nose of the BiXi might bring you good luck, while the touch of the tail might bring good health.
By going through the Tablet Tower, it's the array of 36 stone statues standing on both sides of the road. Among them, 24 statues are animal figures and the other 12 human figures. The animal figures includes horses, elephants, lions, Qilin (mythical beasts), camels and Xiezhi(also mythical beasts ), and the human figures includes meritorious deeds officials, civil officials and military officials. Two pairs each, the statues serve as the ceremonial guards to guard the way of the deceased emperor on his way to the tomb. One pair kneeling down and the other stand up. It says that the kneeling down pair is resting while the standing-up pair guarding, and they change guards day and night, though nobody has ever seen so far. The entire statue was carved out of single pieces of granite stone which is 30 cubic meters. They represent for the outstanding craftsmanship in Ming Dynasty.
Dragon-phoenix Gate stands at the end of the array of statues, in a design of flames. It's believed by going through the gate, the spirits of the deceased emperor could be accepted by the heaven.
Beyond the gate are roads separated to lead to different tombs.
Tips of Visiting the Sacred Road:
Golf-cars available for the visitors who can't or don't want to walk 1.2 mile long distance, and the experienced car drivers would drop you wherever you’d like a stop for picture taking.Price:5 RMB/pp.
The Sacred Road is now comfortable to walk through if your energy and time allowed. Willow trees planted on two sides providing shade and bring gentle breeze sometimes, thus made the walking and picture-taking more enjoyable.
Restroom available halfway, so, please don't need to worry the "emergency" problems.
The whole length (Scenic spot section) needs about half an hour or 40 minutes to walk through. Wheelchairs are accessible the whole way.