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A Short Introduction
This page was last updated on: December 19, 2012
The Ming Dynasty Tombs or Shishan Ling (= 13 Tombs in mandarin chinese) are located in a Valley just North-West of Beijing City, beyond ChangPing Village and are the final resting place of 13 of the total of 16 Ming Era Emperors. The Valley in which the Tomb-site is located has been carefully selected for it's auspicious Feng Shui properties during the earliest years of the Ming Dynasty (starting around 1400 AD ) when Beijing was made Capital of China and has a Confucian lay-out. As is visible on the photo on the right the Tomb-site is enclosed by an Arc of the Steep Jundu Mountains protecting it from bad influences that in Feng Shui traditionally descend from the North
( like the Mongols ? ). The entrance to the Valley is at the South which is exactly the best location prefered and prescribed by Feng Shui.
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Welcome to the Beijing Ming Tombs World Heritage Site short introduction by China Report , a photographic virtual tour giving you a good first impression of the Ming Dynasty Tombs in the outer suburbs of Beijing. Please enjoy this report page giving some first backgrounds and information on the history of the Ming Dynasty Tombs, then explore further on our extra pages. There are two maps - one Ming Toms Site Map and a second Schematic Map - , and there is a sources bibliography (link-page) to other online Sources.
More Report pages, among which a Full Ding Ling & Chang ling Photo Report are due soon ( in 2005).
The Ming Tombs Bus Tour for tourist and visitors is often included in a day-visit to the Great Wall of China at Badaling, a place just 20 kilometers away, but Badaling is not Included. This page only offers an impression and information on the Ming Dynasty Tombs Site and Area which is located about 50 kilometers North-West- and  outside- of the City of Beijing proper.
The Ming Dynasty Tombs site in its enclosing mountains as seen on a tourist map at the Tomb Site entry.
In earlier years the Ming Tombs Valley was badly preserved and many tombs were dilapidated. Of the 13 Tombs , only 3 were renovated in the 1950's. Some were dangerous and so had been barred of by Gates to prevent accidents from happening. However, in 1992 the situation changed as the 13 Ming Tombs were designated a United Nations World Heritage Site, greatly increasing funding and visitors. Since the year 2002 the Ming Tombs Site had been under extensive renovations, restoring the Valley with its many crumbling Tombs somewhat to its former splendor. Kangling Tomb was renovated in 2003, with its MingLou section done last. At a final price of 38 million yuan (4.6 million US Dollars at the Time), renovations were completed in 2004, adding a new Archeological Museum and leaving a far more attractive site to visit.
Unfortunatly, development of Chang Ping into an industrial zone and district of Beijing has altered the site, cutting the spirit way with it's grand statues away from the rest of the Mausoleum Valley. Although still open to visitors, the spirit way no longer directly connects to Chang Ling.
Dahong Men or Great Red Gate Triumphal Arch marking the outer perimeter of the Ming Dynasty Tombs Site and beginning of the 7 kilometer "Spirit Way" leading to all Tombs.
The outer perimeter of the confucian design Tomb Site just north of Changping North train station and the so called Dragon Hill is marked by a Triumphal Gate, Dahong Men, one of the Largest in China. 14 metres high and 19 metres wide, decorated with designs of clouds, waves and divine animals this white marble Gate opens up onto the "way of spirits" that leads northward toward the heart of the Valley.
Surrounded by an eery quiet of the Chinese country-side one finds oneself on a seemingly endless road lined by 15th century stone statues, some of the finest preserved specimens of Ming Era sculpture in existence.
Stone statues and a Chinese Tourguide posing for a photo at the 7 kilometer long stretch of the way of spirits at the Ming Tombs.
After passing serene stone statues of stern confucian wisemen who are thought to have guarded or served the dead Emperor in the afterlife the road continues lined by 12 sets of stone mythical Animals.
At the end of the spirit way stands a large stone Gate know as the Great  Palace Gate or LingXing Gate. This Great Palace Gate holds a Giant Bixi ( read more about LingXing Gates at the Tiantan Park Report ), a myhthical chinese animal resembling a Turtle, on who's back the original Largest Stone Stele ( made in 1425 AD ) in China is inscribed. The stone stele text is a poem by Ching Emperor Qianlong inspired by a visit to the Tombs. After passing the mythical Bixi the stone expressway continues on to to the
different Ming Emperors
and their burial Tombs.
The beautifully crafted blue feathered pearled crown.
The Ming Tombs site was originally chosen by the Third Ming Emperor, Zhu Di or Yongle, who moved his Capital City from Nanjing to Beijing in the early beginnings of the 15th century and as a consequence the earliest two Ming Emperors Hong Wu and Chien Fan were buried in Anhui Province, at some distance from the ancient Capital at Nanjing. After choosing the site, Yongle and his Empress were the first to be entombed in this Ming Dynasty Necropolis, at the site of Chang Ling. Chang Ling Mausoleum , the largest of all viewable Tomb sites, lies central in the valley directly North from the "sprit way" and the Bixi and is protected at its back by the TianShou Shan, part of the surrounding Jundu
Mountains and thus has probably the best Feng Shui caracteristics of the Area. The other Ming Burial Sites are scattered around Chang Ling.
The Changling Mausoleum took 18 years to complete , after which the Emperor was layed to rest here in the year 1424 AD. According to legend 16 concubines were buried alive together with Yongle's dead body.  The Empress and secondary consort would have been added later, after serving as Empress-Dowagers to the next Emperor.
First constructed in 1409 AD the  Changling Mausoleum consist of an underground burial vault and Burial Mount with a large collection of ceremonial plateau's, courtyards and Halls in front to the South, measuring a total of 100.000 square meters. The Main Hall of Eminent Flowers, in classic Ming Dynastic Style, includes some unique architectural features and is the only building outsidecontemporary Imperial Palace ( now a Museum ) to carry the full 9 ceremonial animals on its ceramic roof-tiling. Built in 1425 AD the materials used include pillars of priceless Nanmu Wood, now unavailable. The tranquillity of the Chang Ling offers a soothing athmosphere.  Inside the Main Hall is an exhibition on the Tomb and Emperor Yongle. Stroll around the site and Halls, climb the "Soul Tower" overlooking the Burial mount with inside the, as yet, --> .
Changping Village and the road to the Ming Tombs in winter 1999. Much has changed since. ChangPing is now an Economic Zone on the outskirts of Beijing.
The Ming Tombs are now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Prime Tourist Magnet.
LingXing Gate holding the Bixi and marking the end of the Spirit Way. In ancient times this the point is were visiting court officials would dismount from their horses out of respect for the dead.
Grand Tourist Map on display at Chang Ling, showing the Lay Out of the Chang Ling Site. From the bottom up we see an entrance gate and ceremonial square, then another 3 tiered Gate leading to the Square and Main Ceremonial Hall. Behind the Main Hall are the Burial Mount and a tower overlooking it.
unopened  and unexcavated vault chamber containing the Body of Zhu Di, his Empress and his Courtiers. Rumors about a possible future excavation have circulated !
In contrast to Chang Ling, Ding Ling, just a short distance to the East does have an opened Burial Vault which is open to the Public for viewing. First opened in 1956
( to 1958 ) this underground burial chamber was found virtually intact  after just over 4 centuries underground. Inside between scattered chunks of green jade thought to preserve the dead were the coffins of 13 The Ming Emperor Wan Li ( Shenzhong ) ( 1573-1620 AD) and his 2 consorts, as well as 16 large laquered trunks holding a collection of Ming Era court-robes, ceremonial clothing, gold, silver and other astonishing riches the Imperial Ming had  aquired. The vault chamberstook 6 years to complete, are largely undecorated but a very impressive 1159 square meters and certainly worth to take a look at. Much of the artifacts found inside are on display. Even the Court cookery books are included !
The 3 tiered Gate leading onto a white marble Courtyard and the Main Hall of Eminent Favour.
The Chang Ling site is the largest site at the Shisan Ling. Its Hall of Eminent Flowers was built in the 7Th Year of Ming Emperor Yongle's reign and is upheld by huge columns cut from single tree-trunks imported from the South-Western Chinese Province of Yunnan. On display within the renovated building are a small but
impressive display of items
found at the Ming Burial sites or reproduced after them. Among these - a fantastic pearl-lapislazuli and gold-threaded Crown of the Ming Empress.
Another feature within the largely empty building is a collosal bronze statue of Emperor Yongle. A likewise heavy bronze plaque or stele describes the history of the Ming Tombs and the achievements of Zhu Di, Emperor Yongle, one of the greatest Emperors in Chinese History.
The Main Hall of Eminent Flowers and the courtyard behind it. There is a red wall with 3 gates obscuring the view of the Main Hall.
12 Sets of Stone Mythical Animals guarding the road to LingXing Gate. Animals include the qilin- a horned reptilian like creature  and the horned feline xiechi.
All in all The Shisan Ling 13 Ming Tombs site encompassing 40 square kilometers is an interesting and worthwhile place to visit. Take your time cooling off from the bustle of the central city and its crowded tourist sites. The Tombs can easily be reached by Tourbusses that leave each morning from near the Qianmen Station ( very close to The Capital Hotel ! ) at the South Side of TiananMen Square , other options are the bus from Xizhimen Subway Station or the Beijing Zoo. Beginners can book a tour at their Hotel or travel agent. Real scouts make arrangements for a private cab.
Be curious or miss out.
Click to read reviews and photo reports on exclusively recommended Beijing Hotels ( no shit )
Doc Ben at the Ming Tombs on the 4th of Januari 2000.
Main Hall of Eminent Favour, its front courtyard and ritual incense burner.
The 3rd Courtyard behind the Hall of Eminent Favour. The Burial Mount can be seen behind the Tower.
" Soul Tower " overlooking the Chang Ling burial mount.
View from the Watchtower to the South overlooking Chang Ling and the Valley.
Inside the Changling Mausoleum is a display of mainly funerary objects taken from other burial sites. Don't miss out on the marvelous example of an Empress Head-dress, a magnificient blue feathered and majesticaly pearled Crown.
There isn't that much to see outside and behind the Hall of Eminent Flowers but there sure is a lot of space to dwell in.
At times when visitor numbers are low, once can get a sense of the awe inspiring athmosphere that visitors to the site in ancient times must have felt. In their day, it was long ride out to the Tombs. And, after passing along the supposedly magical spirit way, one would be completely immersed in the serene yet frightening world of the dead, as only birds twittered and flew about. No farmers were allowed anywhere near the Tombs, all of which were guarded at all times. The tomb city itself had its own military garrison. But, within the valley virtually no one went about and it was as if one moved within another realm on earth.

Soothed by the surrounding nature the visitor can wander around enjoying the songs of birds, climb the "Soul Tower" overlooking the Tomb Site, study some of the ritual objects and take time to think about and appreciate the Ming Dynasty.
The fierce looking bronze statue of Zhu Di, Emperor Yongle, inside the Hall of Eminent Flowers. Among things Zhu Di was responsible for the Chinese Age of Nautical Discovery, culminating in the epic Voyages of eunuch Admiral Zheng He (SanBao).
Bronze descriptive plaque or stele inside the Hall of Eminent Flowers.
The ethnically Han-based Ming Dynasty lasted from the year 1368 AD until the peasant revolt that led Emperor Chongzhen (Chun Cheng) to commit suicide at Jingshan Park in 1644 AD and subsequently was defeated by Manchu Armies enetering through Shanhai Pass in Hbei Province. The subsequent victory of the militarily superior Manchu Tribes from the north then gave rise to the Manchu Qing Dynasty.
The Qing Dynasty never buried Chongzhen properly and certainly did not enshrine him. Chun Cheng therefor became the 3rd Ming Emperor not to be enshrined and buried in this Valley, leaving a Total of 13 not 16 Tombs.
Due to Chonzhen's ardent self-sacrifice, his beloved Imperial Palace was spared being put to to the torch as a fiery end to the Ming Dynasty. The Palace lives on today as Beijing's proud Palace Museum (Forbidden City), one of the main attractions of the City.
The 3rd shrine to be opened Zhao Ling was not visited by us.  This shrine, the Tomb of Emperor Longqing was opened in the year 1989. Since the year 2003 extensive renovations have been undertaken at the Ming Tombs, now a major Tourist attraction.
Last opened Kang Ling.
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Tip / Latest News ! - According to our Latest information Kan Ling Mausoleum , a large Tomb in the Northern most part of the Ming Tombs site has been renovated starting August 2003 and is now open to The Public. This rarely visited site (due to remote location) can now be visited by Special Hike Tour , offered by BJ Hikers Co. starting from Huilin Village (near Chang Ping). Take a small Tourbus from near Holiday Inn Lido + Starbucks near the City of Beijing Center , then drive down JingChang Highway and drop of in Chang Ping County near 2 small villages and enjoy your Hike through this beautiful and peaceful part of Suburban Beijing (outlying area). Decorated in Imperial Yellow Ceramic Tiles Kang Ling is an almost undisturbed Mausoleum Site with few visitors still.
Source article from unidentified newspaper.
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Latest Addition : Ming Tombs Complete Site Map ( Ming Tomb Valley, ChangPing + Railroad Station)
The original 3 Tombs to visit are : Chang Ling which was the 1st Tomb to be constructed in 1409 AD lying central in the Valley, Ding Ling, Tomb of Ming Emperor Wan Li ( Shenzhong ) ( 1573-1620 AD), to the east and Zhao' Ling. Chang Ling, the oldest Tomb and burial site of Zhu Di Emperor Yongle and his wife, with its Grand Halls is the most visited. ( photos of Chang Ling are included in this report). The other Tombs, Tai Ling, Kang Ling, Mao Ling, Yu Ling, Qing Ling, Xian Ling, Jing Ling, Yong Ling, De' Ling and Si Ling are not included, but some have been visited by Us. Update coming soon !
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Go to the Interior of the Hall of Eminent Favour at Chang Ling Mausoleum !
The Giant Bronze Statue honoring Zhu Di Emperor Yongle for his achievements. Chang Ling Mausoleum of the Ming Dynasty.
Go Tour Chang Ling Mausoleum
Now available - a full tour of Chang Ling Mausoleum and its Exhibition. See the Tomb of Zhu Di Emperor Yongle in full detail and find out more about the Ming Dynasty and its Mausoleums. Next ? Ding Ling & Kang Ling !
Browse the Museum of the Ming Dynasty
Browse the Museum of the Ming Dynasty
Browse the Museum of the Ming Dynasty
Ming Tombs, the Sacred Way, Beijing, China
Ming Tombs, the Sacred Way, Beijing, China Photographic Print
Brown, Craig J.
Ming Tombs, the Sacred Way, Beijing, China
Ming Tombs, the Sacred Way, Beijing, China Photographic Print
Brown, Craig J.
Carved Stone Creatures, Mythical and Real, Along the Sacred Way
Carved Stone Creatures, Mythical and Real, Along the Sacred Way Photographic Print
Nowitz, Richard
A Stone Figure of an Official Standing Guard on the Sacred Way
A Stone Figure of an Official Standing Guard on the Sacred Way Photographic Print
Nowitz, Richard
Carved Stone Creatures, Mythical and Real, Along the Sacred Way
Carved Stone Creatures, Mythical and Real, Along the Sacred Way Photographic Print
Nowitz, Richard
Carved Stone Lions on Pillars Near the Entrance to the Ming Tomb Site
Carved Stone Lions on Pillars Near the Entrance to the Ming Tomb Site Photographic Print
Nowitz, Richard
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All in all a perfect site burial site.
The Ming Tombs are a world heritage site because of their Unique early Ming Dynasty Daoist architecture. They are truely unique in China in their design.
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