Beijing Travel Guide

Ming Tombs: Chang Ling

Mythical qilin on Sacred Way
Mythical qilin
on Sacred Way

The resting place for 13 of the 16 Ming emperors, the Ming Tombs (Shisan Ling) are China's finest example of imperial tomb architecture. The site was originally selected because of its auspicious feng shui alignment; a ridge of mountains to the north cradles the tombs on three sides, opening to the south and protecting the dead from the evil spirits carried on the north wind. The resting place of the Yongle emperor (1360–1424), the Chang Ling is the most impressive tomb and the first to be built. It has been beautifully restored, although the burial chamber, where Yongle, his wife, and 16 concubines are thought to be buried, has never been excavated.

Ming Tombs
Sacred Way
Sacred Way

Sacred Way
Part of the 4-mile (7-km) approach to the tombs, the Sacred Way is lined with 36 stone statues of officials, soldiers, animals, and mythical beasts.

Hall of Eminent Favor
One of China’s most impressive surviving Ming buildings, this double-eaved sacrificial hall is erected on a three-tiered terrace.

Cedar columns
Supporting the huge weight of the roof, the colossal 43-foot (13-m) nanmu (fragrant cedar) columns are topped with elaborate dougong bracket sets.

Statue of the Yongle emperor
Yongle, the third Ming emperor, moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing, where he then oversaw the construction of the Forbidden City.

Visitors' checklist

  • 30 miles (45 km) NW of Beijing
  • 1–5 buses from Qianmen go to Bedaling Great Wall then tombs. Many tours to the Great Wall stop here
  • 010 6076 1334
  • 8:30am–5pm daily

Reconstruction of Chang Ling
This shows the Chang Ling tomb at the time of the burial of the Yongle emperor in the 15th century.

The Ming Tombs
The 13 tombs are spread over 15 square miles (40 sq km), so are best visited by taxi. Chang Ling, Ding Ling, and Zhao Ling have been restored and are very busy. Unrestored, the rest are open yet quiet.

  • (1) Chang Ling (1424)
  • (2) Yong Ling (1566)
  • (3) De Ling (1627)
  • (4) Jing Ling (1435)
  • (5) Xian Ling (1425)
  • (6) Qing Ling (1620)
  • (7) Yu Ling (1449)
  • (8) Mao Ling (1487)
  • (9) Tai Ling (1505)
  • (10) Kang Ling (1521)
  • (11) Ding Ling (1620)
  • (12) Zhao Ling (1572)
  • (13) Concubine cemeteries
  • (14) Si Ling (1644)

Ding Ling Burial Chamber
Ding Ling, the tomb of the longest reigning Ming emperor, Wanli (r.1573–1620), is the only burial chamber of the 16 tombs to have been excavated and opened to the public. During the 1950s, archeologists were stunned to find the inner doors of the chamber still intact. Inside they found the treasures of an emperor whose profligate rule began the downfall of the Ming dynasty.

Ming Tombs
 

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