“ 50 kilometers northwest from Beijing City lies the Ming Tombs - the general name given to the mausoleums of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). The mausoleums have been perfectly preserved, as has the necropolis of each of the many emperors. Because of its long history, palatial and integrated architecture, the site has a high cultural and historic value. The layout and arrangement of all thirteen mausoleums are very similar but vary in size as well as in the complexity of their structures. „
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The Ming Tombs are located roughly 50 km away from Beijing and can be reached by bus or on a day trip. A day trip will normally combine the Badeling Great Wall with the tombs and China Travel Service run a good service.
The tombs are the mauseleums of the Ming Emporers who ruled China from 1368 - 1644. When you are driving up the valley towards the tombs you will see many of the 13 tombs. Some are stone in colour and some pink. Why pink may you ask, well when the communists took over China they painted some of the tombs red to reflect the new order of power in China. Unfortunately the paint faded to an interesting pink colour. Luckily one of Mao's generals realised what was happening and put a stop to the destruction of this historical gems.
Seeing the pink and stone coloured buildings is very interesting and really reminds you of the diverse history of China.
Only two of the tombs are open to the public, this is due to the risk of further damage being done to the buildings, and possibly grave robbery! The tombs are very similar in building structure and layout as it is thought that the emperors did not want to out do each other in death. The Changling tomb is the largest and completely preserved tomb. Prices to get in are around 30Yen off season and 45 yen in high season. The Dingling tomb is also open to the public but is underground and perhaps doesn't offer such good views of the area as a whole.
On entering the tombs you can be met by an English speaking guide who will inform you all about the history of the tombs. One really sad fact was that all the tradesmen who built the tombs were executed on completion so that they could not tell anyone the location of the Emperor's tomb. What is worse is that every brick has the name of the tradesman who made it. If anything was to happen to the tomb in the future (ie evidence of poor workmanship) then the authorities would know whose fault it was and would take revenge, killing the descendents of the tradesman. Very harsh but accepted by the men in imperial China. Although, it has to be said that many may have been slaves or prisoners of war, so perhaps less "volunteers" then "volunteered!".
When the Emperor died his concubines and wives would also have to take poison, often as would the whole household so that they could accompany him to the afterlife. The tombs are therefore shared by a great many people.
The architecture of the tomb is based on ying and yang and each of the tombs were placed in a certain point in the valley based on the principles of Feng Shui. It is incredibly deliberate and just fascinating to see and learn about!
Walking around the tombs one thing you appreciate is the sheer scale of the project. They are huge reflecting the importance of the residents.
On leaving the tomb area you have to walk over a step through the door to the land of the living. This is, of course deliberate and remember to shake your shoulders before you step over. The chinese believe that otherwise the ghosts will come with you. Ghosts have no legs so can't get over the step but can hitch a ride on your unsuspecting shoulders!
Overall this is an amazing place to visit. One full of history and beautiful views. One not to miss!
The Ming tombs.
The Ming tombs are about 30 miles to the North of Beijing where tombs of 13 of the 16 Ming Emperors from the Ming Dynasty are built. Only 11 emperors are actually buried here as two of them were buried elsewhere. One was buried in Nanjing the former capital of China.
The other Emperor Jingtai was denied an imperial burial by his brother and was instead buried as a prince towards the east of Beijing. Tiansun was the original Emperor but was kidnapped and held by the Mongols during a war. Eventually the government installed Jingtai his brother to the throne. After 8 years the Mongols released Tiansun but Jingtai carried on as the Emperor so when he died and Tiansun was installed he refused to allow his burial with the other Emperors such was his anger towards Jingtai for refusing to step down and handing him back the power. It is believed that he was poisoned by the eunuchs under the orders of Tiansun.
To reach the tombs you have to walk along the sacred way which is a long avenue lined by statues of men and animals both real and fictional. There are elephants, horses, lions and camels representing the vastness of china. The fictional statues are a unicorn and dragon. The statues are in pairs opposite each other 18 pairs or 36 all together all carved out of a single piece of stone. It is very pleasant and peaceful to walk along the sacred way and look at each of the statues. Some are standing some are lying down they are remarkable. It takes approximately twenty minutes to half an hour to walk along at a pleasant comfortable pace.
At the start of the Sacred way there is a large arch to go through and because the Emperor is revered as the son of heaven the avenue represents the avenue to heaven. The archway is the biggest stone archway in the whole of China and it contains a massive statue of a turtle with the head of a dragon, there are hundreds of Chinese character inscriptions on the block of the statue rising up from its back and it apparently weighs in at 50 tons,
After the relaxing walk along the sacred way you reach a smaller arched tower and beyond that the compound to one of the burial sites. The burial sites cover an area in total of 40 Kms. You enter the compound through archways which opens up into a large courtyard with a few statues in it. Then there are some marble statues that lead up to a vast hall now displaying some of the relics and items from the tombs. After leaving this great hall you come to a massive mausoleum which you can go to the top of via a steep ramp inside the tomb. The emperor is actually buried in chambers under the ground and a hill built up and over it. The mausoleum is very grand and painted red. The view from the top overlooks a large area.
Currently there are only 3 tombs open to the public it is a very peaceful place and there are various landscaped gardens to walk around and the compounds of the tombs are interesting to look at. The buildings are all painted red similar to that of the Forbidden City in Beijing. I would say that this is a worthwhile visit and normally this is visited after a visit to the Great Wall of China.
Would I recommend a visit?
I don't think it is worth coming out especially to see the tombs but was good to visit on a stop off en route back to Beijing. The price for entry to the Ming Tombs is about 30 Yuan which is about £2.70. The buildings are quite attractive and interesting to see especially the views from the top of the mausoleum. The compound is very pretty with the water features surrounding canal which gives the impression that it is a moated building on the inside of the compound.
We were advised to use the toilets here and our guide said these toilets were perhaps the only five star toilets in the country and we would never see toilets again like these anywhere else and I can vouch for that he was true to his word they were extremely clean and well cared for and proper European style toilets unlike the holes in the ground type toilets found in lots of places..
50 kilometers northwest from Beijing City lies the Ming Tombs - the general name given to the mausoleums of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368 - 1644). The mausoleums have been perfectly preserved, as has the necropolis of each of the many emperors. Because of its long history, palatial and integrated architecture, the site has a high cultural and historic value. The layout and arrangement of all thirteen mausoleums are very similar but vary in size as well as in the complexity of their structures.