And Sacred Way
The Ming Dynasty had a total of seventeen emperors
but only thirteen are buried here. Emperor Cheng Zu (Yong Le) was
the third Ming Emperor but the first of the Ming Dynasty to choose
this site. His tomb is considered the "chief tomb" and
the others were built, one by one, around it. The original path
of the Sacred Way led to his tomb. Each tomb was broken into three
parts: a building where sacrifices were offered; a tower for the
stele; and the tumulus itself. which covered the underground palace
where the body was buried. (A stele was a pillar, usually made of
stone, used in ancient times for votive purposes.)
Of the thirteen tombs, Ding Ling, the tomb of the fourteenth emperor
of the Ming Dynasty, Shen Zong, and Chang Ling, Emperor Cheng Zu's
tomb, are the only ones that have been restored. Ding Ling is completely
accessible with the tomb buildings renovated and the tomb itself
excavated. At Chang Ling, the tomb buildings have been renovated
but the tomb itself has yet to be excavated. The other eleven tombs
have survived but are in severely damaged states.
The Sacred Way
The approach to the Ming Tombs is called the Sacred
Way. Approximately 4 mi. (6.4 km.) in length, it begins when you
pass a white marble gate and ends at the gate of the chief tomb.
The first landmark, the white marble gate, was built in 1540 A.D.
With five arches it has beautiful bas-relief carvings at its base.
Originally the Sacred Way passed through this Gate. Today you will
see it to the right of the road. Next comes the Great Red Gate.
This is a massive building with three archways, each of which is
120 ft. (36 m.) high and 35 ft. (10.5 m.) wide. Traditionally the
center passage was reserved for the body of the emperor who was
being transported to his final resting place. When visiting the
site even the live emperors used the side porticos. This gate gave
access to the original grounds which were surrounded by a high wall
to keep out all unauthorized visitors. The penalty for intruders
was death. A small retinue of officials and workers lived on the
grounds permanently and saw to the landscaping and upkeep of the
Next along the road is the Stele Pavilion, which
was erected in 1426 A.D. and is 30 ft. (9 m.) high. The inscribed
stele within stands on the back of a tortoise and at each of the
four comers are white marble columns decorated with carvings of
dragons. Directly beyond this is the world-renowned Avenue of the
Animals. The custom of placing animals outside of royal tombs dates
from the time of the Han Dynasty (206B.C.-220 A.D.). There are twenty-four
large white marble animals, twelve facing pairs, equidistantly placed
on either side of the road in standing and kneeling positions. Six
animals are represented: two mythical animals, lions, elephants,
camels, and horses. Then the Avenue turns slightly to the right
and there is a row of twelve stone mandarin statues dating from
the fifteenth century, six on each side. At the end of the Avenue
of the Animals is a small portico with three gates. The road runs
along on either side leading to the sites of the thirteen tombs.
Tour To Chang Ling Ming Tombs
Cloud Taoist Temple
Center "Water Cube"
Stadium "Bird's Nest"