Ming Tombs

 Located in Beijing's suburban Changping County, the place is where 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and their empresses and concubines were buried. Some 50 kilometres northwest of the capital, the Ming Tombs are generally combined with a visit to the Great Wall.

Otherwise known as the "13 Tombs", this is the burial site of 13 out of 17 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. However, the only one you can get a good look at is the tomb of Emperor Wanli, who reigned from 1573 to 1620. This tomb was unearthed in 1956. There are two others that have been uncovered, but the rest remain illusive.

The area is hemmed in by imposing mountains on three sides. With five doors and six pillars of superb carvings, the stone memorial archway at the area's central line, which leads to the tombs, is flanked by 18 pairs of giant stone statues. Both magnificent and vivid, they are the best of their kind nationwide. Ding Ling, one of the tombs, has been excavated and is known as a magnificent underground palace, which consists of five connected chambers built with huge stones and covering a combined floor space of 1,195 square meters. On show at the Ding Ling Museum are 3,000 unearthed burial objects.

A trip to the Ming Tombs is a standard part of the Great Wall tour package. But do not get your hopes up. The best part of the Ming Tombs is the road there. The Spirit Way is the path leading to the mouth of the tomb. Along the path are bizarre, mythical stone monsters standing guard. To get to the tomb itself, you have to walk down many flights of stairs till you are deep inside the mountain. It is kind of creepy and cool to go down and down.

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