- World Heritage Sites in China
- Museums, Memorials & Research Centers in China
- Ancient Architectures in China
Located at the foot of Tianshou Mountain in Changping District, Beijing, the 13 Ming Tombs are the cemeteries of the 13 Ming emperors, 23 empresses, and many imperial concubines, crown princes and princesses after the Ming Dynasty moved its capital city to Beijing. Ming Tombs covers 40 square kilometers in the Changping District. The unique ensemble of cultural landscapes is evidence to a cultural and architectural tradition that surpassed the Ming Dynasty and had an everlasting impact in Chinese history. It boasts high historic and cultural values due to its grand architecture, complete system and long history.
The thirteen emperor's mausoleums are similar in their architectural style and overall arrangement, only differing in size and complexity. Ming Tombs, as a unified whole, and each represents a separate mausoleum units. Each tomb was built in a Piedmont. Each has a forecourt where memorial ceremonies and sacrifices were held and a tomb mound at the back. Every tomb is as little as half a kilometer between each other, up to eight kilometers. Under the guidance of the theory of traditional Chinese Feng Shui, from site selection to planning and design, the design of the Ming Tombs was much focused on the harmony of mausoleums and water, plants and the nature. The Ming Tombs, as an outstanding representative of ancient Chinese Mausoleum, shows the rich connotation of Chinese traditional culture. On July 2003, it was inscribed on the UNESCO's World Heritage List. They were listed along with other tombs under the "Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties" designation.
Currently, only the Sacred Way, Changling Tomb), Dingling Tomb and Zhaoling Tomb are accessible to the public, and the rest parts of the 13 Ming Tombs are not available to visit.
Main attractions to See
Among these tombs, the largest one is Changling Tomb, which was built in 1413 and is the burial place of Zhu Di, the third Ming emperor and the chief of Ming Tombs. It is not only the largest one, but the best-preserved one among the thirteen tombs. It holds Emperor Yongle and his wife's tomb. Except for the Yongle Emperor Zhu Di, the Empress Xu was buried here too.
At the Dingling Tomb, the burial place of the 13th Ming emperor, an underground palace was excavated. It is the only one of the Ming Dynasty Tombs to have been excavated. Visitors are allowed to see the underground palace and the two exhibition rooms above the ground to view the fabulous cultural relics buried with the dead. The excavation revealed an intact tomb, with thousands of items of silk, textiles, wood, and porcelain, and the skeletons of the Wanli Emperor and his two empresses.
Zhaoling Tomb is the tomb of the twelfth emperor and his three queens in Ming dynasty. It is the first repaired tomb in large scale in Ming Tombs, as well as one of the tombs officially opened to tourists. Zhaoling Tomb covers a construction area of 35,000 square meters. The existing buildings include Ling En Gate, Ling En Hall and two side halls, Hefang City, Ming Building, etc.
The Sacred Path, the passage leading to the tomb, is lined with more than 30 lifelike stone figures and horses, all sculptures based on a single huge rock. It is the first attraction of Ming Tombs 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. This path leads into the complex, lined with statues of guardian animals and officials, with a front gate consisting of a three-arches, painted red, and called the "Great Red Gate".