Ming Tombs, Sacred Way
Ming Tombs is one
of the top ten attractions in Beijing.
The Memorial Arch, built of white
marble, was erected in 1540. It is
12 metres high and 31 metres wide,
and has 5 arches supported by 6 pillars
with beautiful bas-relief carvings
of lions, dragons and lotus flowers.
Double lintels link the six pillars.
The roofing is made of round marble
tiles, with upturned corners. "The
way of the spirit" used to pass
beneath the Memorial Arch. The Big
Red Gate was built in 1426. It used
to have three huge wooden doors. The
central opening was used by the dead
emperor alone, and living ministers
and imperial family members had to
use one of the side openings when
they came to pay homage to the deceased
emperors. About 500 yards (A yard
is equal to 0.914 metre.) from the
Big Red Gate stands the Tablet House
built in 1435. A marble column, known
as huabiao, stands at each corner
of the Tablet House. A huge tablet,
7 metres high, stands in the middle
of the house on the back of a tortoise.
The front side bears an inscription
by the fourth Ming emperor. On the
reverse side is an inscription carved
during Qing Emperor Qianlong's reign.
It described the reconstruction of
the Ming Tombs. in 1785 and
commented on the rules and styles
of the Ming Tombs.
Now we come to the famous
avenue of stone animals and statues.
Stone animials and statues are found
at the entrance to imperial tombs
from the Han Dynasty onwards, but
none of the group is as famous as
that of the Ming Tombs.
The avenue starts with
two columns, called wangzhu in Chinese,
one on each side. They are hexagonal,
carved with a cloud design, and the
top is shaped like a round cylinder.
The animals are lions, Xiezhi was
a mythical beast of the feline family,
said to be able to distinguish right
and wrong. Qilin was a sort of imaginary
animal with a scaly body, a cow's
tail', deer's hooves and horns on
With "the way of
the spirit" turning slightly,
the statues appear: two military officers
wearing sabres, two civilian officials
and two ministers of merit. Six statues
on each side and twelve in all.
These animals and statues
all date from the 15th century. Ming
Tombs is interesting to compare them
with those at the tomb of the first
Ming Emperor in Nanjing, which are
scarcely any older and yet much less
fine. They were all meant to serve
the dead in the next world. They do
give people a sense of solemnity on
the way leading to the Tombs, don't
Tourists to Beijing can
now enjoy an aerial view of Ming Tombs
and Great Wall. During a trial period
from March till June, 1985, about
10,00o Chinese sightseers flew over
the areas in four helicopters. The
Tourist Transportation Company of
Changping County then officially started
helicopter sightseeing service for
foreigners over the famous sites on
July 1,1985. Passengers board helicopters
at a pad five kilometres south of
the Ming Tombs. Each helicopter carries
up to 25 passengers and cruises at
150 kilometres per hour. The flight
over the Ming Tombs area is at an
altitude of about 250 metres.