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R.P. BenDedek

Visiting the Ming Tombs Nanjing 2008
By R.P. BenDedek
Apr 19, 2008 - 9:02:13 AM

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As I wrote in the article Cathedral of the Assumption Ningbo City  On April 3rd 2008 I travelled to Nanjing. During that time I visited several different places such as the Presidential Palace in Nanjing City and Sun Yatsen's Mausoleum at the Zhongshan Mountain National Park. At Zhongshan there were other places to visit, one of which was the Ming Tomb. Today I would like to present some photographs which I took of the Ming Tomb and the Wengzhong Path that leads to it.

I have also published two files at kingscalendar  containing about 35 larger photographs plus additional 'official notices' found at the site. Here today, I will present just a dozen photographs.

That's a long way from the door to the front gate.
I had arranged to meet Mingxing at the Nanjing Railway station (he was flying in earlier) and after spending 2 hours searching for each other, we caught a "Tourist No 1 bus" from the Nanjing Railway station out to the City wall.

Just prior to the wall there is a hotel we checked into called the Ming Gugong Hotel (Ming Imperial Palace).

It is a Chinese hotel but accepts foreigners. It is quite a nice place to stay, but don't pay more than 150-200 rmb per night.

I should also add that the food served in their restaurant is fantastic!

Just next door basically, are the remnants of the former Ming Dynasty Imperial Palace, and this was the first place we visited. (3 Photos at King's Calendar).

On April 4th we headed off to Zhongshan Mountain National Park, and after touring the Sun Yatsen Mausoleum and the Linggu Temple area, we headed off to the Ming Dynasty Tomb.

On the Hilltop beside the Wengzhong Path.

World Cultural Heritage: The Ming Tomb

Long Avenues were the style of the Ming.
The Ming Tomb is the tomb of Zhu Yuanzhang, first emperor of the Ming Dynasty.

Its construction project, undertaken in 1381, lasted for 32 years until the "Stele of Great Merits" was erected in 1413, and the emperor was buried here in 1398.

The main buildings include Xiama Archway, Big Golden Gate, Square City, Stone Sculptures along the Sacred Avenue, Golden Water Bridge, Wenwu Gate, Imperial Tablet Hall, Xiaoling Palace, Rectangular Citadel, Ming Tower and Treasure Mound.

The construction system of the Ming Tomb initiated a standard followed by all the imperial tombs built thereafter in the Ming and Qing Dynasties.

For this reason, it is a milestone during the development history of China's imperial tombs.

In 1961, the State Council of P.R. China included the Ming Tomb in the first batch of cultural relics under key protection at the national level.

On July 3, 2003, it was inscribed on the World Heritage List at the 27th session of the UNESCO World Heritage Committee.

Entrance to the Ming Tombs - but a long way to go yet to get there.

The distances at Zhongshan Mountain National Park are such, that in addition to all the climbing stairs that you do (246 at the Linggu Tower and who knows how many at the Mausoleum), each section is situated at quite some distance for the other. Although the Ming Tomb section is located near one exit to the park, we had come from the other direction and the photograph above was that point at which begins the long walk up to the tomb area. There are numerous tower gates to go through as well as endless steps.

One must remember that the Ming Dynasty came to an end 3-4 centuries ago, and so the tomb area is not the pristine tourist spot that a tourist might expect to see in Beijing. For instance there is the Xiaoling Hall which in the past was destroyed and later rebuilt, but on a less grand scale.

Xiaoling Hall. Not as grand today as it once was. Visible remains of former glory are seen in the foundation stones.

Xiaoling Hall

Sacrificial Hall, also known as Xiaoling Hall, is one of the main buildings of the Ming Tomb. It was built in the 16th year under the reign of Emperor Hong Wu (AD 1383) for the memorial tablets of Zhu Yuanzhang and his empress and concubines. It was a huge wooden structure with 9 bays in width and 5 in depth based on three layers of stone Xumizuo, with 56 stone column bases left behind today. The original building was destroyed during the war in the 3rd year under the reign of Qing Emperor Xian Feng (AD 1853). It was rebuilt during the reign of Qing Emperor Tongzhi.

Despite the less than perfect state of the place, it is still an interesting place to visit, and certainly makes one wonder what it must have looked like in the past. I think the only thing that even remotely looked 'pristine' were the censers.

You can burn your money inside this for good fortune.

Sacrificial Censers

Placed before the Sacrificial Hall on each side of its gate, the pair of Sacrificial Censers are actually two small temple-shaped buildings made of yellow and green glazed materials. The censers are covered with single-eave gable-and-hip roofs. The gate in the middle of the buildings' front wall leads to a small chanber where pieces of paper (on which characters are inscribed to call back the spirit of the dead) used for sacrificial ceremonies are burnt.

Prior to travelling to Nanjing, I had read one tourist's negative comments about the Ming Tomb, and realised the point when I got there myself. But then I had already seen a number of tombs. This type of tomb is actually a 'hill' underneath which the emperor is buried.

The tomb is the hill behind that red building atop the grey one.

In the preceeding photo, the tomb is actually visible as 'the treeline' above the Red section. I didn't take a photo because it is not recognizable as a the tomb because it is just a hill. There is not even an English sign there to indicate the significance. Surrounding this little hill however is a high wall, and that is indicative anywhere of the presence of a tomb.

That entrance in the front of the wall in the photo above, is actually a very steep set of steps that leads to the top of the tower. From memory, one purpose of the tower is to station guards to protect the tomb. When you exit the stairs you are facing a Chinese Inscription which indicates whose grave is beyond the wall.

Limestone leakage can be seen everywhere in this tunnel.

Atop the steep stairway you are faced with a brick wall and a hill beyond.

There is nothing particularly fancy up top of the tower to look at, although the view is great. The interior room of the Red wall you see in the photo below, is completely empty and is Yellow in color. The roof is completely missing.

Old and decrepit like the photographer but still worth a look at.

In leaving the Ming Tomb complex, we followed the Wengzhong Path to the exit.

Wengzhong Path

Wengzhong Path, 250 meters long, constitutes the second section of the Sacred Way. This section is flanked by a pair of balusters, two pairs of generals and two pairs of civil officials. The balusters, with a cylinder crown at the top as well as cloud and dragon designs over the column, have changed the convention of topping the balusters along the sacred way with lotus-flower design since the Tang and Song Dynasties. It is of innovative significance in art. The statues of the generals and officials stand there with great dignity, guarding the tomb with their loyalty.

Wengzhong Path. Scenic.

This pathway is impressive now, and must have been more so in the past. The surrounding area has, given that it is now a tourist destination, been turned into gardens, and there are quite a colourful array of trees and plants to look at. There is obvious experimentation with grafting of different plants and colours, and the whole thing is quite picturesque.

Right at the exit at that section of the Park, I spotted a bird in a tree, and I was able to take a clear photograph of it. I have no idea what type of bird it is, but I think it provides a nice ending to this article.

In due course I will provide other photographic files of my trips to Nanjing April 3rd and Ningbo April 12th.


More photographs at kingscalendar

R.P.BenDedek is the pseudonym of the Author of 'The King's Calendar: The Secret of Qumran' (, and is a guest columnist at Magic City Morning Star News. An Australian, he currently teaches Conversational English in China.

Photographic Stories from China at Magic City

"The King's Calendar" is a chronological study of the historical books of the Bible (Kings and Chronicles), Josephus, Seder Olam Rabbah, and the (Essene) Damascus Document of The Dead Sea Scrolls.

© Copyright 2002-2014 by Magic City Morning Star

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