A walk along the Serene Way and a visit to the Ming Tombs
The Sacred Way and Ming Tombs are places near Beijing I would always send my visitors and have been there myself quite a few times. It takes over an hour to get to the Tombs from Beijing (around 42 kms) and it’s worth either hiring a driver or driving yourself as a taxi would be quite expensive and then you have the trouble of finding one when you are finished. I always enjoyed starting at the beginning and walking my way along the Sacred Way checking out all the stone animals and warriors but it’s not a short walk – it’s around 7kms.
The front gate to the walk to the tombs houses a giant tortoise and it is said to give luck in different areas of you life when touched.
This Sacred Way is said to be the road leading to Heaven. It is said that the Emperor, known as the Son of the Heaven, who came from Heaven to his country through the Sacred Way, also deservedly would return to Heaven through this road.
The road is lined with stone statues. These statues are usually twelve human figures and twenty-four animals including lion, camel, elephant, a mythological unicorn, dragon, phoenix, tortoise and horse.
There are four of each of the animals: two standing and two squatting and all have different meanings.
The Sacred Way leads to the Ming tombs which are a collection of mausoleums built by the emperors of the Ming Dynasty. The first Ming emperor’s tomb is located near Nanjing (which was the capital of China during the reign of the first emperor). However, the majority of the tombs are located in a cluster at the end of the Sacred Walk, and collectively known as the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Dynasty.
The site is located on the southern slope of Tianshou Mountain. The location was chosen based on the principles of feng shui by the third Ming emperor.
After the construction of the Imperial Palace (Forbidden City) in 1420, this third emperor selected his burial site and created his own mausoleum. Subsequent emperors placed their tombs in the same valley.
During the Ming Dynasty the tombs were off limits to commoners until 1644 when Li Zicheng’s (the Chinese rebel leader who overthrew the Ming dynasty) army ransacked and set many of the tombs on fire before advancing and capturing Beijing in April of that year. Now there are only three tombs of the thirteen open to the public; Changling Tomb, Zhaoling Tomb and Dingling Tomb.
The layout and arrangement of all the thirteen mausoleums are very similar, but they vary in size as well as in the complexity of their structures. Each of the tombs was built in an area at the foot of the mountain, with distances ranging from half a kilometre to eight kilometre between them.
And on the way to the tombs, you can stop and see part of the Great Wall at Badaling – beware this is the most commercial, re-buil )and busiest part of the Wall. But like any other major tourist spot in Beijing, ‘never’ visit on a Chinese public holiday otherwise you will be visiting with ‘millions’ and ‘millions’ of Chinese tourists.
(this photo from http://www.hdtimelapse.net)