Fit for an Emperor

On May 28, 2012, in Historical Relics, Must-sees, Tombs, by Jack Li

Feeling like one of the hottest days this year, a couple of friends and I ventured out to the Ming Tombs (the Tombs) from the location of our Beijing hotels. Our mode of transport was the bus from the Deshengmen Station, (next to the Arrow Tower) and accessible to Jishuitan subway station, Line 2, Exit A. Funnily enough, as I have noticed on a couple of occasions, it always surprises me to see how well-prepared locals businesspeople are with the change in weather patterns – on this occasion, wide-brimmed hats were stockpiled and selling fast. To our joy, we discovered that the buses accepted subway cards with and each journey only costing 3RMB (which is considerably cheaper than paying by cash). Approximately one hour’s drive (51 kilometres) north from Beijing the Tombs make for an excellent China travel day trip.

So, what is the justification in visiting the Tombs? Well, firstly, the Tombs are situated in a scenic location straddling the southern slope Tianshou Mountain. Furthermore, the position of the Tombs is no accident, as it follows in accordance with the principles of feng shui to deflect evil. Secondly, the Tombs bare immense historical significance as the place of rest for thirteen Ming Dynasty emperors. Due to the prominence of the Tombs, in 2003, they were subsequently listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is, of course, exhibition halls at the tombs which display some very intriguing sights such as an imposing figure of a seated Emperor Yongle and items such as imperial robes.

Depending on your schedule, it is quite easy to spend a whole day at the tombs by either spend a whole day walking from one site to another. Talking in the 7 kilometre ‘Spirit Walk’ is certainly one way in which to appreciate the reverence of the site. Indeed, here visitors will be able to gaze in wonder at statutes of familiar animals such as camels, elephants, rams and mythical creatures like that of the fearsome ‘bixie’ and ‘qilin’. Needless to say, the Tombs dispersed at the base of the mountain, so using the bus is a viable option from, for instance, the Changling Tomb to that of Dingling. As the name ‘tomb’ suggests, it would be assumed that you can enter underground – this is true for the Dingling Tomb at least. Nevertheless, be prepared to walk up to the top of the tomb and then walk down a considerable amount of stairs into the tomb. Once in the tomb is evident how revered the place is with many tourists donating money.

Compared to other top attractions, like the Forbidden Palace and Temple of Heaven, there does appear to be not the same grandeur – but does there need to be? The Tombs are, after all, a place of respect for the generations of rulers which have gone before. This fact is made evident in light of the money piles donated by tourists making the whole visit rather humbling. Therefore, to discover the very essence of the country’s incredible past, especially if you are going to travel to Beijing, a visit to the Ming Tombs should definitely be in order.




Jack Li

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