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Ming Dynasty Tombs in 360°
The 13 tombs of the Ming Dynasty are located 50kms north of Beijing. The site was chosen by the third Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle (1402–1424), who moved the capital of China from Nanjing to the present location of Beijing. The Ming Tombs were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in August 2003.
1. What to see
The site of the Ming Dynasty Imperial Tombs was carefully chosen according to Feng Shui (geomancy) principles. This 40 square kilometer area lies at the foot of the Jundu Mountains and it is accessible only from south. This means that the mountains protects the area from bad spirits and evil winds descending from the North as Feng Shui expects.
The largest of the Ming tombs, Changling is the tomb of Emperor Yongle and his empress Xushi. It has been restored carefully but the burial chamber has never been excavated. Construction of his tomb began in 1409 and was completed in 1427. Changling contains a seven kilometer road named the "Spirit way" (Shen dao) leading to the burial temple complex.
- The pavilion in front of the "Spirit Way" was added during Qing times in 1542, more than one hundred years after the death of Emperor Yongle. Inside the pavilion, the 50-ton tortoise shaped dragon-beast carries a stone tablet.
- The "Spirit way" (Shen dao) leading into the complex is lined with statues of guardian animals and officials. They depict legendary animals like Xiezhi, Qilin and real ones like lions, camels, elephants, horses with officials and ministers. Each animal is represented in standing and crouching or proning form. Besides the decorative function, these statues also served as a guard to honour the deceased emperor.
- The most important part of the burial temple is the Hall of Eminent Favor (Ling'en hall). Colossal 13m high nanmu (fragrant cedar) columns hold the ceiling of this well preserved hall. Artifacts from the Wanli emperor's tomb, the Ding Ling treasures are exhibited here.
2. When to see
Spirit Way is open 7:00 to 18:00 in summer, 8:00-17:30 in winter, Changling tomb is open daily from 8:00 to 18:00 in summer, 8:30-17:00 in winter.
4. How to get there
Most tourists visit China on a package tour that might includes the Geat Wall and the Ming Dynasty tombs. If travelling on your own, probably the easiest way is to hire a taxi in Beijing.
5. Where to stay
There are plenty of hotels in Beijing to select from.