Beijing Ming Tombs – I know Ming Tombs is in almost every tour agency’s or tourist’s travel itinerary in Beijing. I just don’t understand why!
I cannot fathom what people see in the joy of visiting burial places. Are they there to compare:”Would mine be grander than this when it’s my time?”
Having said this, I have visited Beijing Ming Tombs for at least 4 times, in year 2007 alone!
I had no choice!
First, it was with my brother and the other 3 times was with overseas clients who just have to visit the burial places of as many Chinese Emperors as possible.
I could jolly well be the tour guide at Beijing Ming Tombs!
Well, I would be now,
Your Virtual Tour Guide to Beijing Ming Tombs!
Beijing Ming Tombs
So, let’s get on board as I welcome you to another new episode of “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Dead!”
The Ming Tombs features the thirteen tombs from the Ming Dynasty era and they are hidden amongst scenic mountains which is located at about 50 kilometers northwest of Beijing.
Usually, a trip to the MingTombs is a part of Great Wall tour packages offered by travel agencies, but you can plan a trip there on your own.
Why is Ming Tombs a must-visit place when traveling in Beijing?
Well, to many, this is the Chinese version of the royal tombs in Egypt. This is especially so for history and cultural buffs, as the Ming Tombs tour offers insightful information of the Ming dynasty and their cultures.
And of course, you can also see many artifacts, things and belongings of the Emperors including the tombs of the mistresses. And there are of course many souvenir shops that sell replicas of some of the things you see in the exhibits.
Now, a brief history of Beijing Ming Tombs…
At the beginning of the Ming Dynasty, the capital was in Nanjing (a city in southern China). However, the wise third Ming Emperor Zhu Di realized that a peaceful northern boundary was important to the whole country.
Thus, he decided to move the capital from Nanjing to Beijing. With the move, it started the construction of the imperial palaces and temples.
At about the same time, the construction of the Ming Tomb began.
It was widely held in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that although dead physically, a person’s soul remained, still having human needs. Consequently, the 13 emperors’ tome complexes look like imperial palaces to continue fulfilling their ostentatious needs and wants.
The Emperor Yong Le – considered the most powerful emperor in the Ming dynasty, first chose to build his tomb here in 1407, and successive emperors have followed suit.
In total, 13 emperors were buried in this place, also known as the “Thirteen Ming Tombs”. The whole construction of the 13 tombs took more than 200 years.
So, what’sit like at Beijing Ming Tombs?
The Ming Tombs cover an area of 40 square kilometers with a 7-kilometer-long sacred way flanked by 18 pairs of giant stone statues leads to the ChangLing – the tomb of Emperor Yong Le.
One of the things that most foreign tourists do not know is that the whole site of Beijing Ming Tombs was chosen based on the theory of Fengshui.
Under the guidance of traditional Chinese Fengshui (geomancy), the whole process from site selection to designing of the tombs paid attention to harmony between tomb architecture and the surrounding mountains, rivers and vegetation to embody the philosophical view that man is an integral part of nature.
Currently, there are just two tombs which have been excavated. DingLing and Chang Ling. The problem arises as to which one should visit if time is pressing.
Let me give you a brief introduction of both…
Ming Tombs Dingling
Beijing Ming Tombs – Ding Ling
At Dingling, lies the tomb of Emperor WanLi (reigned 1537-1619). It wasunder archaeological excavation in 1956, and all other tombarchitecture still remained intact. DingLing has been excavated so thoroughly that it is possible for tourists like you and me to get into the burial chamber itself.
In addition, the tombs for imperial concubines and eunuchs of Emperor WanLi are inside the mausoleum area. They were reclaimed as farmland during the later years of the Qing Dynasty. Unbelievably, the underground coffin chambers have remained intact.
Talk about long-lasting monuments!
However, it is a very steep climb down and people who are physically weaker (those with heart, breathing and movement problems) would find the enclosed spaces difficult to explore. And my advice is to avoid doing so.
Ming Tombs Changling
Beijing Ming Tombs – Chang Ling
ChangLing Tomb, the largest tomb, belonged to Emperor Zhu Di, the third Ming emperor. The surrounding of the tomb is decorated with stele pavilions, stone columns, animals and humans. And in front of the tomb is the Ling En Hall standing on a marble base.
The tomb was built 550 years ago. The centerpiece is the main hall of the tomb which occupies 1,956 square meters. One of the impressive things is that the hall is entirely built of very precious wood. It is also reputed to be one of China’s largest wooden structures.
Besides that, among the 32 huge pillars are four standing in the center. They measure 1.17 meters in diameter each with a two-story castle that sits in the rear of the main hall. The hall also houses a large statue of the Emperor for whom the tomb was built.
You have to be there to take a look to realize how much thought was put into the building of the tomb years and years ago.
Well,like any good tourist spots in Beijing, there is a small table manned by 2 ladies selling postcards and a few other souvenirs of the tomb. I bought a few just for the sake of telling friends that I was there.
Note: The tombs are deep in the underground so it’s quite difficult for the handicapped tourists. So, please be mindful.
Admission Ticket: 45 RMB
Address: Jundushan, Chang Ping District. Beijing, 102213
Tel: +86 (0)10 6076 1888
Hours of Operation: 8:30am-5pm, daily