The Ming tombs are a collection of mausoleums built by the emperors of the Ming dynasty of China. The first Ming emperor's tomb is located near his capital Nanjing. However, the majority of the Ming tombs are located in a cluster near Beijing and collectively known as the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming dynasty (Chinese: 明十三陵; pinyin: Míng Shísān Líng; lit. 'Ming Thirteen Mausoleums'). They are located within the suburban Changping District of Beijing Municipality, 42 kilometers (26 mi) north-northwest of Beijing's city center. The site, on the southern slope of Tianshou Mountain (originally Huangtu Mountain), was chosen based on the principles of feng shui by the third Ming emperor, the Yongle Emperor. After the construction of the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) in 1420, the Yongle Emperor selected his burial site and created his own mausoleum. The subsequent emperors placed their tombs in the same valley.

Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Dagong gate (Red in the middle) and Spirit way of the Ming tombs (behind the gate).
LocationBeijing and Nanjing, China
CriteriaCultural: i, ii, iii, iv, vi
Inscription2000 (24th Session)
Extensions2003; 2004
Coordinates40°15′12″N 116°13′3″E / 40.25333°N 116.21750°E / 40.25333; 116.21750

From the Yongle Emperor onwards, thirteen Ming emperors were buried in the same area. The Xiaoling Mausoleum of the first Ming emperor, the Hongwu Emperor, is located near his capital Nanjing; the second emperor, the Jianwen Emperor, was overthrown by the Yongle Emperor and disappeared, without a known tomb. The "temporary" emperor, the Jingtai Emperor, was also not buried here, as the Tianshun Emperor had denied him an imperial burial; instead, the Jingtai Emperor was buried west of Beijing.[1] The last emperor buried at the location was Chongzhen, the last of his dynasty, who committed suicide by hanging on April 25, 1644. He was buried in his concubine Consort Tian's tomb, which was later declared as an imperial mausoleum Siling by the emperor of the short-lived Shun dynasty, Li Zicheng, with a much smaller scale compared to the other imperial mausoleums built for Ming emperors.

During the Ming dynasty, the tombs were off limits to commoners, but in 1644 Li Zicheng's army ransacked and burned many of the tombs before advancing to and subsequently capturing Beijing in April of that year.

In 1725, the Yongzheng Emperor bestowed the hereditary title of marquis on a descendant of the Ming imperial family, Zhu Zhilian, who received a salary from the Qing government and whose duty was to perform rituals at the Ming tombs. He was posthumously promoted to Marquis of Extended Grace in 1750 by the Qianlong Emperor, and the title passed on through twelve generations of Ming descendants until the end of the Qing dynasty.

Presently, the Ming tombs are designated as one of the components of the World Heritage Site, the Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, which also includes a number of other locations near Beijing and in Nanjing, Hebei, Hubei, Liaoning province.

Layout edit

An overview of the Changling Mausoleum
The Spirit Way pass through emperor pavilion
Statue in the Ming tombs grounds
Tomb guardian statues of a warrior and official, Ming period

The siting of the Ming dynasty imperial tombs was carefully chosen according to Feng Shui (geomancy) principles. According to these, bad spirits and evil winds descending from the North must be deflected; therefore, an arc-shaped valley area at the foot of the Jundu Mountains, north of Beijing, was selected. This 40 km2 (15 sq mi) area—enclosed by the mountains in a pristine, quiet valley full of dark earth, tranquil water and other necessities as per Feng Shui—would become the necropolis of the Ming dynasty.

A 7-kilometer (4 mi) road named the "Spirit Way" (pinyin: Shéndào) leads into the complex, lined with statues of guardian animals and officials, with a front gate consisting of a three-arches, painted red, and called the "Great Red Gate". The Spirit Way, or Sacred Way, starts with a huge stone memorial archway lying at the front of the area. Constructed in 1540, during the Ming dynasty, this archway is one of the biggest stone archways in China today.

Further in, the Shengong Shengde Stele Pavilion can be seen; inside, there is a 50-ton stone statue of a Bixi carrying a memorial tablet. Four white marble Huabiao (pillars of glory) are positioned at each corner of the stele pavilion. At the top of each pillar is a mythical beast. Each side of the road is flanked by two pillars whose surfaces are carved with the cloud design, and tops are shaped like a rounded cylinder. They are of a traditional design, and were originally beacons to guide the soul of the deceased, The road leads to 18 pairs of stone statues of mythical animals, which are all sculpted from whole stones and larger than life size, leading to a three-arched gate known as the Dragon and Phoenix Gate.

At present, only three tombs are open to the public:

There have been no excavations since 1989, but plans for new archeological research and further opening of tombs have circulated.

The Ming tombs were listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in August 2003. They were listed along with other tombs under the "Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties" designation.

Watercolor overview of the Ming tombs

List of the Imperial Tombs edit

The imperial tombs are in chronological order and list the individuals buried:

Name Chinese/pinyin Emperor Empresses and imperial concubines Date Picture Coordinate
Changling Chinese: 長陵; pinyin: Cháng Líng Yongle Emperor Empress Renxiaowen 1424   40°18′5.16″N 116°14′35.45″E / 40.3014333°N 116.2431806°E / 40.3014333; 116.2431806 (長陵)
Xianling Chinese: 獻陵; pinyin: Xiàn Líng Hongxi Emperor 1425   40°18′18.12″N 116°14′15.61″E / 40.3050333°N 116.2376694°E / 40.3050333; 116.2376694 (献陵)
Jingling Chinese: 景陵; pinyin: Jǐng Líng; lit. 'Scenic Tomb' Xuande Emperor Empress Xiaogongzhang 1435   40°17′54.14″N 116°15′08.52″E / 40.2983722°N 116.2523667°E / 40.2983722; 116.2523667 (景陵)
Yuling Chinese: 裕陵; pinyin: Yù Líng Zhengtong Emperor Empress Xiaozhuangrui
Empress Xiaosu
1449   40°18′49.33″N 116°13′55.56″E / 40.3137028°N 116.2321000°E / 40.3137028; 116.2321000 (裕陵)
Maoling Chinese: 茂陵; pinyin: Mào Líng Chenghua Emperor Empress Xiaomu
Empress Xiaozhenchun
Empress Xiaohui
1487   40°18′51.60″N 116°13′36.17″E / 40.3143333°N 116.2267139°E / 40.3143333; 116.2267139 (茂陵)
Tailing Chinese: 泰陵; pinyin: Tài Líng Hongzhi Emperor Empress Xiaochengjing 1505   40°19′23.33″N 116°12′59.90″E / 40.3231472°N 116.2166389°E / 40.3231472; 116.2166389 (泰陵)
Kangling Chinese: 康陵; pinyin: Kāng Líng Zhengde Emperor Empress Xiaojingyi 1521   40°19′10.03″N 116°12′13.40″E / 40.3194528°N 116.2037222°E / 40.3194528; 116.2037222 (康陵)
Yongling Chinese: 永陵; pinyin: Yǒng Líng Jiajing Emperor Empress Xiaojiesu
Empress Xiaolie
Empress Xiaoke
1566   40°17′18.09″N 116°15′06.05″E / 40.2883583°N 116.2516806°E / 40.2883583; 116.2516806 (永陵)
Zhaoling (Chinese: 昭陵; pinyin: Zhāo Líng Longqing Emperor Empress Xiaoyizhuang
Empress Xiao'an
Empress Dowager Xiaoding
1572   40°17′28.76″N 116°12′38.55″E / 40.2913222°N 116.2107083°E / 40.2913222; 116.2107083 (昭陵)
Qingling Chinese: 慶陵; pinyin: Qìng Líng Taichang Emperor Empress Xiaoyuanzhen
Empress Dowager Xiaohewang
Empress Dowager Xiaochun
1620   40°18′29.43″N 116°14′01.32″E / 40.3081750°N 116.2337000°E / 40.3081750; 116.2337000 (慶陵)
Dingling Chinese: 定陵; pinyin: Dìng Líng; lit. 'Tomb of Stability' Wanli Emperor Empress Xiaoduanxian
Empress Dowager Xiaojing
1620   40°17′42.43″N 116°12′58.53″E / 40.2951194°N 116.2162583°E / 40.2951194; 116.2162583 (定陵)
Deling Chinese: 德陵; pinyin: Dé Líng Tianqi Emperor Empress Xiao'aizhe 1627   40°17′15.01″N 116°15′35.91″E / 40.2875028°N 116.2599750°E / 40.2875028; 116.2599750 (徳陵)
Siling Chinese: 思陵; pinyin: Sī Líng Chongzhen Emperor Empress Xiaojie
Noble Consort Tian
1644   40°16′08.69″N 116°11′32.64″E / 40.2690806°N 116.1924000°E / 40.2690806; 116.1924000 (思陵)

The Ming emperors not buried in one of the Thirteen Tombs are: Hongwu Emperor, Zhu Biao, Emperor Kang, Jianwen Emperor, Jingtai Emperor, and Zhu Youyuan, Emperor Xian.

The panorama painting "Departure Herald", painted during the reign of the Jiajing Emperor (1521–1567 AD), shows the emperor traveling on horseback with a large escort through the countryside from Beijing's Imperial City to the Ming tombs.

Images edit

See also edit

The three imperial tombs north of the great wall

References edit

  1. ^ Eric N. Danielson, "[1]". CHINA HERITAGE QUARTERLY, No. 16, December 2008.

External links edit