The Sacred Way

The Ming Tombs are located about 31 miles northwest of Beijing. The site was carefully chosen by the third Ming Dynasty Yongle emperor Zhu DI (1402-1424). His father and founder of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, was buried in Nanjing. His nephew, the second Ming Emperor, from whom he usurped the throne, escaped and disappeared from official history. After Yongle moved the capital city from Nanjing to Beijing and constructed the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City), he selected an arc­shaped area at the foot of the JunDu Mountains for his burial site and built his mausoleum. It took 18 years to complete. Changling, 2 1/2 miles from the entrance, is the tomb of emperor Yongle and empress XuShi. It is surrounded by sixteen satellite tombs for Zhu DI's concubines. The Tumulus (underground burial chamber) has not yet been excavated. Thirteen Ming emperors were buried with their empresses and concubines in this 40­square­kilometer area between 1424 and 1644. It is the most extensive necropolis of any Chinese dynasty. Three tombs have been excavated and restored to date: Changling, the largest; DingLing, whose underground palace is open to the public, and ShaoLing. The Tombs are constructed with memorial halls in the front and burial chambers in back. The entire site is surrounded by a wall. A seven kilometer road named the Sacred Way leads into the complex. The main entrance to the valley is the DaHongMen (Great Red Gate) constructed in 1540. This Sacred Way starts with two hexagonal columns called WangZhu on either side. They are carved with a cloud design. The tops are shaped like a rounded cylinders.  

Copyright © 2008 Susan Roecker