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Royal Mausoleum of Ming and Qing Dynasties

In 2000 November, Royal Mausoleum of Ming and Qing dynasty was honored as "World Cultural Heritage" by the UN Organization of Science, Education and Culture. Locating in Northern China, the Royal Mausoleum of Ming and Qing dynasties is the biggest and most complete among the mausoleums that still exist today in China for emperors and empresses built in ancient time.

The Ming Tombs were built in a small basin on the foot of Tianshou Mountain in Changping District, the northwest area of Beijing , 44 km away from the downtown. The mausoleum consists of 13 tombs of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), generally known as "Ming Thirteen Tombs". Here is where 13 emperors and 23 empress of the Ming Dynasty were buried, together with many imperial concubines, princes, princesses, and many maids.

The Dongling Tomb and The Xiling Tomb make up the royal mausoleum of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

The Ming Tombs

The approach to the Ming Tombs is a shaded 7-kilometer-long road known as the Sacred Way. Its beginning is marked with a marble archway standing 27 meters long and 15 meters high. The marble archway is similar to the triumphal arches of Europe (Paris, Rome, Berlin, etc.). This archway, the biggest and best preserved of the kind in the country, was erected in 1540, at a time when Chinese architecture had reached its climax.

This road is lined with gigantic stone statues called Shixiangsheng, including 24 of lions, camels, elephants, horses, and mythical animals and 12 of generals, civil mandarins, and courtiers.

The route of the leading part of the whole is arranged in light of the geographical situation, basically bearing southwest-northeast with as light turn. Taking the main peak of Tianshou Mountain on the right eastern side of the Changling Tomb as the background, the route deviates slightly to the horseshoe-shaped eastern side. This is because the mountain ridges on the eastern side are relatively low, so the deviation helps gain the feeling through the perspective effect that the east and west are approximately balanced. It is a successful artistic treatment of the environment, which should be the decision made by the planner after making an on-the-spot survey.

Changling Tomb

The winding Tianshou Mountain ridges linked to each other create a horseshoe shape opening to the south. At the northernmost center of the horseshoe, the Changling Tomb is built at the foot of the mountain. It is the largest among the 13 tombs.

At the opening of the horseshoe, 6 km south of Changling Tomb, there are two east and west small isolated hills opposite to each other. The Dahong Men, built between them, is taken as the starting-point of the entire mausoleum area. This method of using natural terrain reminds people of the fine tradition that ancient Chinese cities and other large structures paid close attention to integration with the macro-environment. Apart from the Changling Tomb, another 12 tombs are scattered along the two sides of the horseshoe facing the path leading to public tombs.

The three courtyards in the front and at the back of the Changling Tomb are of the same width, and are encircled by high walls. Inside the tomb gate, the first courtyard is very shallow, the second square, vertical and long. The entrance is the Ling'en Gate. On the first line of the middle pillar, three doors are open on the single-layer stone platform encircled by white stone balustrades very much like Taihemen Gate in the Forbidden City. The Ling'en Hall, the key structure in the second courtyard, is at the rear. Its shape and structure are the same as the Taihe Hall of the Forbidden City, with an area of 1,956 square meters. Under the hall, there are three layers of stone platforms encircled by stone balustrades. The 32 large pillars inside the hall are all made with super-quality gold filigreed Nanmu timber. The largest four pillars are each 1.17 meters in diameter and 12 meters high.

Dingling Tomb

The Dingling Tomb is the representative royal tomb of the Ming Tombs and also the only one whose underground palace was unearthed. It is the tomb of the 13th Emperor Shenzong (Zhuyijun) of the Ming Dynasty and his two Queens, Xiaoduan and Xiaojing.

The construction of the Dingling Tomb started in the 12th year of (1584) Wenli of Shenzong's reign and was completed in the 18th (1590) year of Wanli. Buildings on the ground consist of Treasure City, Grand Mansion, Ling'en Hall, two ground auxiliary halls, Ling'en Gate, Ling Gate, Shenbo Oven, Dinvine Wardrobe, Divine Stock, Slaughter Pavilion and Wailuo City, etc. At present, the Treasure City and Grand Mansion of the Dingling have been preserved fairly well.

The Grand Mansion is not only gallant and splendid, but also does not have a piece of wood and a nail. The rafters, brackets and inscribed board of the upper and lower caves are all inlaid with white stone sculptures and painted with colorful pictures which look like wood structure.

The Underground Palace Halls, a labyrinth palace building, were the first royal tomb excavated in accordance with plan in China. The labyrinth palace building consists of 5 underground halls, i.e. front, middle, back, left and right halls, with the total area 1,195 square kilometers. There are seven stone gates in the five halls. The stone gates of the front, middle and back halls were most finely done with sculptured white marble. Every stone gate has two leaves, each of which is 3.3 m high and 1.8 m broad and weighs about 4 tons. On every facade of leaf, 81 nipple-like nails and decorative beast-head holding knocker in the mouth are sculptured. The back hall, the biggest one in the underground palace, is also called labyrinth room, which is the main part of the Underground Palace. It is 9.5 m high, 9.1 m broad and 30.1 m long, paved with polished piebald stones. On the front of the coffin platform, inner and outer coffins are laid with the Emperor Zhuyijun in the middle and two Queens, Xiaoduan and Xiaojing on two sides respectively.

Exhibition Room: The excavated articles of Ding Ling are 3,000 odd in total, which include a great number of gold, silver, jade, China wares, textiles, crowns, belts and ornaments of emperor and queens, tin wares, posthumous title books and posthumous treasures etc.

Gold Crown: It was made of extremely thin gold threads, on which two dragons playing with pearl are inlaid, a skilful masterpiece with vivid posture. It is the first discovery among excavated articles in China.

Phoenix Crowns: Four Phoenix Crowns were excavated, on each of which 5,000 odd pearls and 1 thousand odd precious stones have been inlaid. Phenix Crown was worn by queens on ceremonial occasions.

Dragon Gown: It was worn by Emperor Zhuyijun on grand ceremonial occasions, on which 12 dragon designs were embroidered.

Hundred Son Clothes were worn by Queen Xiaojing, on which double dragon longevity character was embroidered. All around the clothes, designs of pine, bamboo, plum, stone, peach, pear, banana, glossy and different flowers and grasses and picture of hundred sons were embroidered, vivid and lively, remarkably true to life.

The Qing Tombs

There are two groups of Qing imperial tombs in Hebei's Zunhua and Yixian counties, because they lived separately in the east and west of Beijing, hence the name of Dongling Tomb (East Mausoleum) and Xiling Tomb (West Mausoleum). Whether in terms of the site selection principle or concrete layout, they are similar to, but developed somewhat differently from, the Ming Tombs.

The Dongling Tomb was built in Malanyu, Zunhua county, Hebei Province; it was originally constructed from the 18th year of the reign of Emperor Shunzhi, Qing Dynasty; there are 14 cemeteries for emperor, empress, and imperial concubine, and Shunzhi, Kangxi, Qianlong, Xianfeng, Tongzhi, 5 emperors of Qing, and 15 empresses, Xiao Zhuangwen, Rongfei, Cian, Cixi, etc, 136 imperial concubines, 1 young prince, and 5 princesses.

The Xiling Tomb is situated on the foot of Yongle Mountain, 14 km away from the Yixian county, Hebei province, and is over 120 km to Beijing. It is the rest place for 4 emperors of Qing, Yongzheng, Jiaqing, Daoguang, Guangxu, and 9 empresses, 56 imperial concubines, and 76 princesses and dukes. 

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