The Ming Tombs lie in Changping County, about 50 kilometers (31
miles) northwest from the urban area of Beijing. It is actually a
tomb cluster of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), including thirteen
emperor's mausoleums, seven tombs for concubines and one grave for
eunuchs. This cemetery is world famous because of the thirteen
emperors buried here. Sitting at the foot of Mt. Yan and occupying
an area of more than 120 square kilometers (29,653 acres), it
appears extremely spectacular. It was listed in the World Heritage
List in 2003.
Each emperor's tomb was constructed at the foot of a separate small
hill, but they all share a main road called the Sacred Way. The
thirteen emperor's mausoleums are similar in their architectural
style and overall arrangement, only differing in size and
complexity of their structures. They used to have a forecourt where
memorial ceremonies and sacrifices were held and a tomb mound at
the back. Comparatively speaking, Changling (Chang Tomb) is the
most grand, Yongling (Yong Tomb) the most delicate and Siling (Si
Tomb) the smallest.
Nowadays, the Sacred Way, Changling (Chang Tomb), Dingling (Ding
Tomb) and Zhaoling (Zhao Tomb) are accessible to visitors.
The Sacred Way is seven kilometers (4.3 miles) long and leads to
Changling (Chang Tomb) directly. Chang Tomb is the largest and
oldest of the tombs. Construction on the mausoleum began in 1409
and lasted four years. Buried here are Zhu Di, the third emperor of
the Ming Dynasty, and his empress. The forecourt has three
courtyards and all the halls are covered with yellow glaze tiles on
their roofs. The second yard was built after the Hall of Supreme
Harmony of the Forbidden City. It is one of the largest wooden
buildings in China and is supported by sixty unpainted poles made
of nanmu. Unearthed objects are on display in this hall. Behind is
a tower called Ming Lou (Bright Tower), the symbol of Chang Tomb.
It connects the burial mound, the circumference of which reaches
approximately one kilometer (0.6 mile).
Dingling (Ding Tomb) is the only one excavated in this graveyard up
till now. Zhu Yijun, the thirteenth emperor of the Ming Dynasty was
inhumed together with his two empresses. Constructed between 1584
and 1590, this mausoleum used to have bridges, a stele pavilion,
halls and towers and annexes on the ground. Hundreds of years
later, only a stone tower, Bright Tower, survives following several
fires. Behind the tower is the underground palace, 27 meters (88.6
feet) in depth. Visitors may enter via a tunnel. The stone palace
occupies an area of 1,195 square meters (0.3 acre) and has five
halls. Gates of the main halls are made of white marble, with fine
thrones in the central hall, coffins and burial chests at the rear
hall. Some precious articles excavated are on exhibition like
crowns, ornaments, and utensils.
Built in 1538, Zhaoling (Zhao Tomb) lies to the southwest of Ding
Tomb. It is the mausoleum of Zhu Zaihou (the twelfth emperor of the
Ming Dynasty and his three empresses. It is the best representation
of a tomb complex because of its fully restored complete surface
structures, consisting of four bridges, a stele pavilion and halls.
At Ling'endian (Hall of Eminent Favor), offerings and information
on this emperor and his empresses may be seen.