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Ming Tombs

 

The whole view of ChanglingSitting in Changping District, the Ming Tombs (also called Shisanling) are mausoleums of thirteen emperors of the Ming Dynasty and, what is more, twenty-three empresses and one highest-ranking imperial concubine were entombed here. Ming Tombs is the largest clusters of imperial cemeteries in China. The construction of this imperial cemetery started in 1409 and took more than 200 years to complete until the doom of the dynasty. Changling, the tomb of Emperor Yongle (Zhu Di), was the earliest of the tombs, and the succeeding twelve emperors had their tombs built around it.

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History of Ming Tombs

There were sixteen emperors totally of the Ming Dynasty, ruling China from 1368 to 1644. All of them except three-Zhu Yuanzhang, Zhu Yunwen and Zhu Qiyu were buried in the cemetery. The dynastic founder, Zhu Yuanzhang, had his tomb built in Nanjing, the city he had chosen for his capital. When he died, power passed to his grandson and successor,Zhu Yunwen. The new emperor attempted to weaken the regional prince's feoffed by Zhu Yuanzhang, especially Zhu Di, who was guarding the northern frontier and created an independent power base in Beijing. However, Zhu Yunwen was met counter-attacks. After a 3-year civil war, he was ousted and then went missing, and Zhu Di became the third emperor of the dynasty. He moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, and had his tomb built in the capital city. Zhu Qiyu, the seventh Ming emperor, was dethroned and buried in Lingendian of Changling in Ming Tombthe western suburbs of Beijing.

In ancient times, it was believed that although dead physically, a person's soul remained, still having human's needs, Consequently, the emperor's mausoleums Ming Tombs look like imperial palaces. And under the guidance of traditional Chinese Fengshui or geomancy, the whole process from site selection to designing of the mausoleums paid attention to harmony between the tomb architecture and the surrounding environment—mountains, rivers and vegetation-to embody the philosophical view that man is an integral part of nature.

The Ming Tombs is located in a 40 square-kilometer-nearly basin, screened by mountains on three sides. The layout and arrangement of all thirteen mausoleums are very similar but vary in size as well as in the complexity of their structures. Each tomb complex, being against a hill and having a river in the front, starts with a stone bridge, followed by a front gate, a stele pavilion, Ling'en men (Gate of Eminent Favor), Ling'en dian (Hall of Eminent Favor), Lingxing
(Star in Charge of Study) Gates, Five Stone Sacrificial Utensils, Soul Towers and then the Precious Citadels. They show a harmonious Unity but distinguished by different characteristics. The former forbidden ground is opened to the public. In 1961, the Ming Tombs was inscribed on the first list of historical and cultural relic under top state protection by the State Council. In July 2003, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee at its 27th session officially inscribed the Ming Tombs and Xiaoling Tomb in Nanjing on the World Heritage List as assemblage of the Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties. The Sacred Way, Changling, Dingling, and Zhaoling have been opened as tourist attractions.

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the stele Pavilion of Changling with red leavesChangling in Ming Tombs

Located at the foot of the dominant peak of the Tianshou Mountain, Changling, the tomb of Emperor Chengzu and his empress, is the largest and most magnificent one of the Ming Tombs. As the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty, the period under his reign (1402-1424) was one of the most prosperous periods in the Ming history.

The whole tomb was built square in the front part and round in the rear, representing the earth and the heaven respectively, because in ancient China the earth was believed to be square and the heaven round. Its layout and design is the same as other tombs nearby. The Hall of Eminent Favour, the rare largest nanmu building remaining from ancient China, used to be the place to keep memorial tablets inscribed with the names of deceased emperors. Sacrificial ceremonies were held here too. The hall is supported by 60 pillars of Phoebe nanmu. It is said that the transportation of this precious wood took thousands of workers five years.

Beyond the Hall of Eminent Favour is Baocheng(the Precious City), with the circular wall stretching one kilometer in circumference that surrounds theDingling in Ming Tombs
31-meter-long, 28-meter-wide burial mound. A staircase leads up to the Soul Tower, which contains a stela bearing the words "Mausoleum of Empemr ChengZu of the Great Ming". From here all the Ming Tombs can be seen.

Dingling in Ming Tombs

Covering a total area of l,195 square meters, Dingling, the tomb of Emperor Shenzong and his two empresses, is located at the foot of Dayu Mountain, southwest of Changling. As the most eminent buildings of Ming Tombs, the underground palace consists of five vaults with giant marble archways and a floor paved with huge polished stone known as "gold bricks". In the rear hall the emperor's coffin and those of his two empresses' are on exhibition. Around these coffins is a collection of over 3,000 burial relics that were excavated in 1 956, among which th eemperor's Gold Crown made of extremely thin gold threads and the empresses' Phoenix Crowns embedded with numerous precious pearls and gems are most imposing. The Dingling tomb is the first ancient imperial tomb excavated under scientific plan in China. The archaeological and historical relics found in the excavation are of great academic and historical values.
Dingling in Ming Tombs was first built in 1584 and completed 6 years later in 1590, a total of 8 million taels of silver were recorded to spend and more than 30, 000 workers were enslaved on the project.

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Ming Tombs Tour

With long history and the high fame, Ming Tombs has become one of the key attractions in Beijing. After the tour to Ming Tombs, tourists will both enjoy the ancient architecture style and learn more about thi history.