Situated in the southern foothills of Yianshou Mountain, Changping County northwest of Beijing, a total number of 13 tombs of emperors of the Ming Dynasty. Construction started with the Changling Tomb in 1409 and ended with the completion of the Siling Tomb in 1644, the year of the downfall of the Ming Dynasty, lasting for 235 years.
The approach to the Ming Tombs is a stone-paved road seven kilometers long. It begins with a very impressive archway of carved white marble erected in 1540. Further on the road is lined by giant-size stone statues, 24 of lions, camels, elephants, horses and mythical animals and 12 of generals and ministers. Each was sculptured out of a single rock.
Changling Tomb, the largest tomb, belonged to Zhu Di, the third Ming emperor. The approach is decorated with stele pavilions, stone columns, animals and humans. In front of the tomb is the Ling En Hall standing on a marble base. Built 550 years ago, the main hall of the tomb occupies 1,956 square meters. The hall is entirely built of very precious wood and China’s largest wooden structure. Among the 32 huge pillars are four standing in the center, measuring 1.17 meters in diameter each. A two-story castle sits in the rear of the main hall.
Dingling is the tomb of Zhu Yijun, the 13th Ming emperor. It consists of the surface structure and the Underground Palace. In 1956 the tomb was excavated and open to public. The Underground Palace is composed of the front, central and rear halls, and the side halls. The materials used is stone, not a single piece of wood. There are no beams and the ceiling is arched.
The rear hall is the Burial Chamber, where the emperor’s coffin and the first and second empress’s coffins were placed. In the coffins large numbers of valuable relics were found.
Now a museum has been set up in Dingling. The unearthed relics, including porcelains, jade carvings, silk, woman’s head-dresses decorated with golden phoenixes and jewels, wooden seals, and other precious article, are now on display in the museum.