Journey into the Forest of Souls: Visiting the Ming Tombs

From Beijing to the Countryside: A Day Trip to the Ming Tombs

The Ming tombs are a group of mausoleums that the Chinese emperors of the Ming dynasty constructed. The tomb of the first Ming emperor can be found close to his capital, Nanjing. However, the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, which are all situated close to Beijing, contain the majority of the Ming tombs.

They are 42 kilometers north-northwest of Beijing’s city center in the suburban Changping District of the Beijing Municipality. The Yongle Emperor, the third Ming emperor, chose the location on the southern slope of Tianshou Mountain based on feng shui principles. After building the Imperial Palace in 1420, the Yongle Emperor decided where he wanted to be buried and built his mausoleum there. The ensuing heads set their burial places in a similar valley.

Top View of The Ming tombs
Top View of The Ming tombs

Starting with the Yongle Emperor, all thirteen Ming rulers were buried there. Close to his capital, Nanjing, is the Hongwu Emperor’s Xiaoling Mausoleum. The Yongle Emperor overthrew the Jianwen Emperor, the second emperor, and he vanished without a known tomb. Additionally, the Jingtai Emperor, the “temporary” Emperor, was not buried here because the Tianshun Emperor had refused to give him an imperial burial; The Jingtai Emperor, on the other hand, was buried west of Beijing.

The last ruler who covered the area was Chongzhen, the remainder of his line, who ended it all by holding tight on April 25, 1644. He was buried at the consort Tian’s tomb. The short-lived Shun dynasty’s Emperor Li Zicheng eventually classified the burial as an imperial mausoleum Siling. It was much smaller in scale than the other imperial mausoleums built for Ming emperors. He was buried there.

The tombs were closed to the public during the Ming dynasty. However, in 1644, Li Zicheng’s army ransacked and burned many of the tombs before advancing to Beijing and capturing it in April.

Zhu Zhilian, a descendant of the Ming imperial family, was given the hereditary title of marquis in 1725 by the Yongzheng Emperor. Zhu Zhilian was paid by the Qing government and had the responsibility of carrying out rituals at the Ming tombs. In 1750, after his death, the Qianlong Emperor elevated him to the Marquis of Extended Grace rank. From that point on, twelve generations of Ming heirs held the title until the end of the Qing dynasty.

Exterior of The Ming tombs
Exterior of The Ming tombs

The layout of the Ming tombs

The Ming dynasty imperial tombs were strategically placed following Feng Shui principles. These say that evil spirits and winds coming from the North must be stopped; Consequently, an arc-shaped valley area north of Beijing at the base of the Jundu Mountains was chosen. According to Feng Shui, this 40-square-kilometer area would become the Ming dynasty’s necropolis. It was surrounded by mountains and located in a tranquil valley with dark earth, tranquil water, and other necessities.

The complex is reached via a road that is 7 kilometers long and is known as the “Spirit Way.” It is lined with statues of officials and guardian animals. The front gate is made up of three red-painted arches and is called the “Great Red Gate.” At the front of the area is a massive stone memorial archway that serves as the starting point for the Spirit Way, or Sacred Way. One of China’s largest stone arches, this archway was built in 1540 during the Ming dynasty.

Zhaoling Tomb
Zhaoling Tomb

The Shengong Shengde Stele Pavilion can be seen further in; A 50-ton stone statue of a Bixi carrying a memorial tablet can be found inside. Four white marble Huabiao is situated at each edge of the steel structure. A mythical beast stands atop each pillar. Each roadside is flanked by two points of support whose surfaces are cut with the cloud plan, and tops are molded like an adjusted chamber.

They are of a customary plan and were initially reference points to direct the spirit of the departed; The street prompts 18 sets of stone sculptures of legendary creatures, which are completely etched from entire stones and of an amazing size, prompting a three-curved entryway known as the Mythical serpent and Phoenix Door.

They are of a customary plan and were initially reference points to direct the spirit of the departed; The street prompts 18 sets of stone sculptures of legendary creatures, which are completely etched from entire stones and of an amazing size, prompting a three-curved entryway known as the Mythical serpent and Phoenix Door.

The Ming tombs were included on UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites in August 2003. They appeared with other tombs in the “Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynastie lists.”

Changling Tomb
Changling Tomb

List of the Thirteen Imperial Tombs in Ming Tombs

The names of the people who were buried in the imperial tombs are listed in chronological order:

  1. Changing
  2. Xianling
  3. Jingling
  4. Yuling
  5. Mailing
  6. Tailing
  7. Kangling
  8. Yongling
  9. Zhaoling
  10. Qingling
  11. Dingling
  12. Dealing
  13. Siling

The Ming emperors are not interred in any Thirteen Tombs: Zhu Youyuan, Emperor Xian, Hongwu Emperor, Zhu Biao, Emperor Kang, Jianwen, and Jingtai Emperors.

Sacred Way

The Changling Sacred Way, also known as the Sacred Way in Ming Tombs, is the way to the Changling Tomb. As you move from North to south along the way, you’ll see gorgeous locations like the Stone Tablet Archway, Tablet Pavilion, Great Red Gate, Ornamental Columns, Stone Figures, and Lingxin Gate.

Sacred Way
Sacred Way

Changling Tomb

When you reach the end of the Sacred Way, you can see the Changling Tomb, built in 1409 and where Emperor Zhu Di, the third Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, and his Empress Xu are buried. It is the original, largest, and best-preserved of the 13 Ming Tombs. In the front, it has three courtyards and a Treasure City in the round part of the back. Highly recommended is the Grace and Blessing Palace in the second courtyard.

Dingling Tomb

The tomb of Ming Dynasty emperor Zhu Yijun, number thirteen, and his two consorts. It was erected between 1584 and 1590. The primary draw is the Stone Underground Palace, which was uncovered between 1956 and 1958 and held countless priceless artifacts.

Dingling Tomb
Dingling Tomb

Zhaoling Tomb

The 12th emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhu Zaihou, and his three empresses were buried at Zhaoling, which is in the eastern foothills of Dayu Mountain. The unique Dumb Yard, shaped like a crescent, houses the imperial coffins.

The best hotels near Ming Tombs in Changping

  • Beijing Marriott Hotel Changping
  • Beijing Huanghuacheng Water Great Wall Derunju Guesthouse
  • Encounter Garden Great Wall Holiday Guesthouse
  • Delight Inn
  • Commune by the Great Wall by Hyatt
  • CMYK Stoneyards by the Great Wall

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