If you are interested in China's dynastic history and imperial culture, you should not miss the Ming Tombs in your Beijing tours. It is the largest mausoleum group in the world and was constructed from 1409 to 1644 AD. The Ming Emperors ruled China from 1368 to 1644 and 13 of the 16 Ming Dynasty Emperors along with their empresses and concubines are buried in the suburbs of Beijing. The tombs which are located at the foot of Tianshou Mountain occupy an area of over 40 square kilometers. Enclosed by mountains on three sides, the pristine valley with its dark soil and abundant water features perfect Fengshui, making it the ideal location for imperial tombs.
Unlike its counterpart, Qing Dynasty Imperial Tombs which paid more attention to how their tombs would fit into the natural surroundings, the Sacred Road of Ming Imperial Tombs attracts people's eyes the most. It is the main road leading into the tomb complexes. It is 7 kilometers long and consists of the huge Memorial Stone Archway, the Great Red Gate, the Stele Pavilion, the Stone Creatures, and the Dragon and Phoenix Gate. Along the road are 18 pairs of stone creatures. They consist of animals, mythological creatures, and imperial officials who are to serve the emperor in the afterlife. Each type of creature has two pairs, one pair standing and one pair sitting and they represent animals that could be found in the farthest reaches of the vast Ming Dynasty. There are three pairs of officials: civil, military, and meritorious, and fifteen pairs of creatures. The Sacred Road was built for the Emperor's funeral processions and the annual visits of the reigning Emperor to perform rites for his ancestors.
All of the thirteen Ming Dynasty Imperial Tombs were constructed with the same basic layout, but each is different in size and grandness. Of the thirteen Ming Tombs, only one tomb, the Dingling Tomb, has ever been excavated. It was the tomb of Emperor Wanli and his two Empresses. It gives visitors an idea of what kinds of amazing treasures the Ming Dynasty Emperors were buried with, and how much still remains underground. Excavated in 1956, the Dinling Tomb's Underground Palace was discovered to be buried more than 9 stories underground. More than 3,000 artifacts are on display in two exhibition halls. The most precious artifacts on display are the emperor's solid gold crown and the empresses' jeweled phoenix tiaras.
The Ming Dynasty Imperial Tombs are precious cultural relics. They give visitors a glimpse into the power and grandeur of China's Ming Dynasty's Emperors. No tour to Beijing is truly complete without visiting them.
Suggested Beijing tour to discover the Ming Tombs & Sacred Road:
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