Ming Tombs and Earthquake

May 12, 2008

Tom – Today was a cool/cloudy day and it was spent at the Ming Dynasty Tombs an hour NW of Beijing.  It was a huge area (as usual) tucked in below the mountains.  The picture of the map will give you some idea of the size of the Ming Tomb area.    

Thirteen emperors are buried here, each with his own burial mound, wall, gates, towers, pavilions, etc.  Three of the tomb areas are open for visitors.  The turtle is a common feature at the base of columns.

We started at the tomb of Ding Ling. 

It was excavated in the 1050s and you are allowed to descend into the underground vault.  There is also an impressive museum with various burial artifacts. 

It took ten minutes to drive to the next burial complex, that of Emperor Chang Ling.  This Sacred Silk Burner (small yellow-tiled building) is in the courtyard. 

You enter an impressive yellow-tiled gate and then walk through a series of large halls (each a separate building).  There is a large statue of the emperor seated upon a three-tiered marble terrace in the Hall of Eminent Favors.  The roof is supported by at least 20 huge (3 ft diameter) solid cedar wood columns.


Earthquake:  I was reading a description of one of the golden crowns when the words started moving on me – I thought I might be getting dizzy and couldn’t figure out why.  When driving home Joe got a call from his office saying a 7.9 earthquake had hit in Sichuan Province outside of Chengdu and they had sent everyone home because their 24 story building in downtown Beijing was swaying.  The time of the quake was 2:30pm – when I had trouble reading the sign!  The current estimate (May 22nd) is that 75,000 people were killed.

View of the valley and other Ming Dynasty tombs below Da Yu and Tianshou mountains


Our taxi driver, who was with us all day, then drove us to the entrance to the entire tomb complex.  It is called the Spirit Way and is about 4 miles long.  He dropped us off at the entry triumphal arch and later picked us up about a mile north.  We walked through the Great Palace Gate (Red Gate) and proceeded up the Sacred Way (God Street) along the route the burial processions would take. 

The largest stelae (inscribed tablet) in China is located here inside of a pavilion.  Like many in China, it is supported by a mythical tortoise-dragon-like animal. 

The “Sacred Way” has two large columns with a cloud design on all sides and then is guarded by a series of large stone animals and officials.


We had fun taking our pictures with some of them.  There were a couple of animals (mythical) you may not be familiar with

I am sitting in front of a Xiezhi

and Helen appears to be rubbing noses with a Qilin. 

These were followed by recognizable statues

After passing through the Longfengmeng Gate (Gate of Dragon and Phoenix) we were picked up and headed back to Beijing. 

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