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Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, including the Ming Dynasty Tombs and the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum

Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties is the designation under which the UNESCO has included several tombs and burial complexes into the list of World Heritage Sites. These tombs date from the Ming and Qing dynasties of China.

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Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, including the Ming Dynasty Tombs and the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum Location

Tombs were included in the list in 2000, 2003 and 2004. The property now includes the following tombs or tomb groups:

Serial No. Tomb Province Location Coordinates (dms.s) Area (m²) Buffer (m²) Year inscribed
1004-001 Xianling Tomb Hubei Zhongxiang N31 01 E112 39 876K 2.264M 2000
1004-002 Eastern Qing Tombs Hebei Zunhua N41 11 E117 38 2,240K 78M 2000
1004-003 Western Qing Tombs Hebei Yixian County N39 20 E115 13 18.42M 47.58M 2000
1004-004 Ming Tombs Beijing Municipality Changping District N40 16 10 E116 14 40 8.23M 81M 2003
1004-005 Xiaoling Tomb Jiangsu Nanjing N32 03 30 E118 51 07 1.16M 1.8M 2003
1004-006 Tomb of Chang Yuchun Jiangsu Nanjing N32 03 44 E118 49 54 9.8K   2003
1004-007 Tomb of Qiu Cheng Jiangsu Nanjing N32 03 51 E118 49 59 5.5K   2003
1004-008 Tomb of Wu Liang Jiangsu Nanjing N32 04 00 E118 49 51 4K 1.8M 2003
1004-009 Tomb of Wu Zhen Jiangsu Nanjing N32 04 05 E118 49 57 3.5K   2003
1004-010 Tomb of Xu Da Jiangsu Nanjing N32 04 30 E118 50 06 8.5K   2003
1004-011 Tomb of Li Wenzhong Jiangsu Nanjing N32 04 47 E118 50 23 8.7K   2003
1004-012 Yongling Tomb of the Qing Dynasty Liaoning Fushun   2.3659M 13.4394M 2004
1004-013 Fuling Tomb of the Qing Dynasty Liaoning Shenyang   538.6K 7.0236M 2004
1004-014 Zhaoling Tomb of the Qing Dynasty Liaoning Shenyang   478.9K 3.1874M 2004
Total         34.3794M 234.2944M  

Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, including the Ming Dynasty Tombs and the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum Attractions

2004 Additions

The three Imperial Tombs of the Qing Dynasty in Liaoning Province include the Yongling Tomb, the Fuling Tomb, and the Zhaoling Tomb, all built in the 17th century. Constructed for the founding emperors of the Qing Dynasty and their ancestors, the tombs follow the precepts of traditional Chinese geomancy and fengshui theory. They feature rich decoration of stone statues and carvings and tiles with dragon motifs, illustrating the development of the funerary architecture of the Qing Dynasty. The three tomb complexes, and their numerous edifices, combine traditions inherited from previous dynasties and new features of Manchu civilization.

 

Ming Dynasty Tombs

The Ming Dynasty Tombs (Chinese: 明朝十三陵; pinyin: Míng cháo shí sān líng; lit. Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty) are located some 50 kilometers due North of Beijing at an especially selected site. The site was chosen by the third Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle (1402 - 1424), who moved the Capital City of China from Nanjing to the present location of Beijing. He is credited with envisioning the layout of the ancient city of Beijing as well as a number of landmarks and monuments located therein. After the construction of the Imperial Palace (the Forbidden City) in 1420, the Yongle Emperor selected his burial site and creating his own mausoleum.

From the Yongle Emperor onwards, 13 Ming Dynasty Emperors were buried in this area. The tombs of the first two Ming Emperors are located near Nanjing (the capital city during their reigns). Emperor Jingtai was also not buried here as the Emperor Tianshun had denied Jingtai an imperial burial but was instead buried west of Beijing. The last Chongzhen Emperor who hung himself in April, 1644 was the last to be buried here, named Si Ling by the Qing emperor but on a much smaller scale than his predecessors.

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

The site 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 area at the foot of the Jundu Mountains north of Beijing was selected. This 40 square kilometer 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.

The entire tomb site is surrounded by a wall, and a seven kilometer road named the "Spirit Way" leads into the complex which is one of the finest preserved pieces of 15th century Chinese art and architecture. The front gate of the complex is a large, three-arched gateway, painted red, and called the "Great Red Gate".

At present, three tombs have been excavated: Chang Ling, the Largest; Ding Ling, whose underground palace is open to the public; and Shao Ling. 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.

The Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum

The Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum is the tomb of the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. It lies at the northern foot of Purple Mountain (Chinese: 紫金山; pinyin: Zĭjīn Shān; literally "Purple-Golden Mountain") in Nanjing, China. Legend says that in order to prevent robbery of the tomb, 13 identical processions of funeral troops started from 13 city gates to obscure the real burying site.

The construction of the mausoleum began during the Ming Dynasty in 1381 and ended in 1405, with a huge expenditure of resources involving 100,000 laborers. The original wall of the mausoleum was more than 22.5 kilometers long. The mausoleum was built under heavy guard of 5,000 military troops.

The sacred way started from Sifangcheng (Rectangular city) which was a pavilion where a splendid carved stone stele in the memory of the Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang was erected, on which a hymn by his fourth son was inscribed. The top of the pavilion no longer exists. In the middle of the 1800-meter-long winding sacred way, 6 kinds and 12 pairs of animals guard the tomb. Beyond them is a pair of decorative columns called huabiao in Chinese. Four pairs of ministers and generals have been standing there for centuries to accompany His Majesty beneath.

On an inscribed stone tablet outside of the gate of the mausoleum, an official notification of the local government in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) is ordered to protect the tomb. Inside the gate, there is a pavilion in which 5 steles stand. The one in the middle was inscribed with 4 Chinese characters, which were written by the Emperor Kangxi on his third inspection tour. Behind the pavilion, there used to be other annexes; however most of them have collapsed into relics from which the original splendor can still be traced. The emperor and his queen were buried in a clay vault, 400 meters in diameter. On a stone wall surrounding the vault, 7 Chinese characters were inscribed, identifying the mausoleum of Emperor Ming Taizu (respected title of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang). The mountain to the south of the tomb is the mausoleum of Sun Quan, King of the Kingdom of Wu in the Three Kingdoms period (220-265). The existence of this tomb is the reason why the Sacred Way is not straight.

In 2003, along with the Ming Dynasty Tombs north of Beijing, the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum of Nanjing was inscribed by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Sites "Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties".

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More on Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, including the Ming Dynasty Tombs and the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum

Description of Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, including the Ming Dynasty Tombs and the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum at the World Heritage Listing

Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, including the Ming Dynasty Tombs and the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum Photo Gallery

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