Updated: May 28, 2020
The Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty is 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 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 kilometre area - enclosed by the mountains in a pristine, quiet valley full of dark earth, tranquil water and other necessities would become the necropolis of the Ming Dynasty.
A seven-kilometre road named the "Spirit Way" (Shendao) leads into the complex, lined with statues of guardian animals and officials, with a front gate consisting of a three-arches, painted red, and called the "Great Red Gate".
The Spirit Way, or Sacred Way, starts with a huge stone memorial archway lying at the front of the area. Constructed in 1540, during the Ming Dynasty, this archway is one of the biggest stone archways in China today.
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.
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. 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.
Presently, the Ming Dynasty Tombs are designated as one of the components of the World Heritage object, Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties, which also includes several other sites in Beijing area and elsewhere in China. The tombs are located 42 kilometres north-northwest of central Beijing, within the suburban Changping District of Beijing municipality. The site, located on the southern slope of Tianshou Mountain (originally Mount Huangtu), was chosen on the feng shui principles by the third Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle (born Zhu Di) (1402-1424), who moved the capital of China from Nanjing to its the present location in Beijing. The name Yongle means "Perpetual Happiness". He is credited with envisioning the layout of the Ming-era Beijing as well as some 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 created his mausoleum.
The imperial cemetery covers an area of 120 square kilometres with 13 Ming emperors, 23 empresses and several concubines, princes, and princesses buried there, and thus it is also called 13 Mausoleums. The Forbidden City was the Chinese imperial palace from the Ming Dynasty to the end of the Qing Dynasty. It is located in the centre of Beijing, China, and now houses the Palace Museum. For almost 500 years, it served as the home of emperors and their households, as well as the ceremonial and political centre of Chinese government. Built-in 1406 to 1420, the complex consists of 980 buildings and covers 720,000 m2 (7,800,000 sq ft). The palace complex exemplifies traditional Chinese palatial architecture and has influenced cultural and architectural developments in East Asia and elsewhere.
The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987 and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world. Since 1925, the Forbidden City has been under the charge of the Palace Museum. Their extensive collection of artwork and artefacts were built upon the imperial collections of the Ming and Qing dynasties. Part of the museum's former collection is now located in the National Palace Museum in Taipei. Both museums descend from the same institution, but were split after the Chinese Civil War.
Changling Tomb Map
Dingling Tomb Map
Entering the Underground Tomb Chamber
The tomb of the longest reigning Ming emperor, Wanli (1573-1620), is the only burial chamber of the 16 tombs to have been excavated and opened to the public.
Yongling Tomb, built in 1536, is the tomb for Emperor Shizong, Zhu Houcong who ruled for 45 years as the 11th Ming Dynasty Emperor of China ruling from 1521 to 1567.