Approximately 31 miles from Beijing lie the tombs of one of the most renowned houses of imperial China, the Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). Established by the third Ming emperor, Yongle, this tranquil site is a a popular tourist attraction and is set on the mountain of Tianshou, dotted with spiritual monuments and statues. Overall, thirteen members of this famous family were buried here.
Construction of the necropolis spanned more than two hundred years, almost throughout the entire Ming Dynasty: The first tomb was built in 1409, and the last one in 1644. There is the magnificent Yanshan Mountain, running from west to east, encircling the Ming tombs on three sides.
In the 5th year of the Yongle reign, Empress Xu died. Since Emperor Zhu Di did not plan to build a mausoleum in Nanjing, he sent Zhao Yu, a high official, Liao Junqing, a diviner, and other people north to choose auspicious sites for imperial burial grounds.
In the 7th year of the Yongle reign (1409), the burial grounds were selected. Emperor Zhu Di, in visiting the place himself, found a vast area with good soil and ringed by hills. Zhu Di, gratified that his diviners found the signs for this location agreeable, ordered forty square kilometers in this area dedicated to the necropolis. Thus construction of the Changling Mausoleum began.
The area chosen as an auspicious site for the imperial burial grounds was not only beautiful of scenery, but also in an excellent position from a military perspective as the mountains provided a natural defense for the area, as well as for the capital. Changling, built by Emperor Zhu Di at the foot of TianshouMountain in the northern part of present Changping County, was the first imperial tomb in this area.
The last tomb (Siling) was built during the reign of Chong Zhen (the last emperor of Ming). Thirteen of sixteen Ming emperors were buffed there, except for Emperor Jing Tai, who was buffed in the western suburb of Beijing. Therefore, the huge complex is known in Chinese as Thirteen Ming Tombs.
At this writing, only the Sacred Way, Changling Tomb, Zhaoling Tomb and Dingling Tomb are open to the public:
The Sacred Way, also known as Changling Sacred Way, is the approach to the Changling Tomb. Along the Way from south to north, you will see a number of sites of interest and beauty, including the Stone Tablet Archway, Great Red Gate, Tablet Pavilion, Ornamental Columns, Stone Figures, Lingxin Gate.
Walking along the Sacred Way to the end, you can see the Changling Tomb (built in
1409), where lie the third Emperor of Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhu Di and his Empress Xu. It is the largest, original and the best preserved among the thirteen tombs, and has three courtyards in the front and a Treasure City in the round rear part. The magnificent Grace and Blessing Palace (Ling’en Palace) in the second courtyard is highly recommended.
The Dingling Tomb, built from 1584 to 1590, is the mausoleum of Emperor Zhu Yijun, the thirteenth emperor of the Ming Dynasty and his two empresses. The highlight part is the stone Underground Palace, which was discovered between 1956 and 1958, and had a great deal of precious relics unearthed.
Located in eastern foot of Dayu Mountain, the Zhaoling Tomb is where the 12th emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhu Zaihou and his three empresses were buried. It features the special Dumb Yard in a crescent shape housing the imperial coffins.
Here is an introductory tour of the Ming Tombs presented by thetravelaholics: