Nanjing Ming Tombs, China
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Nanjing Ming Tomb
Located at the foot of Zi Jin Shan (Purple & Golden Mountain) in the east of the surburb of Nanjing City, The Ming Tomb is a joint burial tomb of the first Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang and Empress Ma in Ming Dynasty.
Being one of the largest extant imperial tombs in the ancient times, it has a more than 600 years history.
Occupying a large area, The Ming Tomb consists of many relics, such as Xia Ma Fang (Dismounting Archway), Da Jin Men (Great Golden Gate), Si Fang Cheng (Square City), Shen Dao (Sacred Way), Shi Shou (Stone Beasts), Shi Ren (Stone Human Figures), Shi Wang Zhu (Stone Watching Pillar), Bei Dian (Tablet Hall), Bao Cheng (Treasure City) and so on.
Xia Ma Fang (Dismounting Archway) is the first building in front of The Ming Tomb. It was made of stone. On the top of the archway was inscribed with several Chinese characters which read "All Officials Must Dismount". Accordingly it was named Xia Ma Fang (Dismounting Archway).
Walking northwards from Xia Ma Fang, you will see the first front gate - Da Jin Men (Great Golden Gate). Behind the gate is Si Fang Cheng (Square City), which is actually a tablet pavilion. The tablet was built to commemorate his grandfather Zhu Yuanzhang by Emperor Zhu Li in Ming Dynasty.
The top of the tablet was destroyed. The remaining parts are four walls in the shape of square and a tablet. The content of the tablet was written by Emperor Zhu Li in person. It narrates the great merit of Zhu Yuanzhang, the founder of Ming Dynasty.
Being one of the largest extant tablets in China, it has more than 2700 Chinese characters on it. Each character is as big as a man's fist. When seeing it, you'll have to acclaim the tablet as the acme of perfection.
Walking along the Tablet of Great Merit and pass through the Imperial River Bridge, you will come to the Sacred Way. The whole way is more than 1800 meters long, in the middle of which is the Stone Elephant Road. Both sides of the roads are lined with six kinds of stone beasts, i.e., lion, Xie (a kind of beast in Chinese legend), cameral, elephant, Qi Lin (also a kind of beast in Chinese legend), and horse.
All of them were symbolic of the supremacy of emperor in Chinese history.
Behind the stone horse are two grand ornamental stone pillars, on which were carved with dragons playing in the clouds. The manner is momentous. On both sides of the sacred way are flanked with four couples of civil officials and military officials dressed in helmets or robes with boas designs. All of them were carved out of whole pieces of stone.
The civil officials are wearing court clothes, solemn and sedate. The military officials are wearing helmets and armors, powerful and strong. All the stone figures together with the stone beasts mentioned above extend 3 miles along the Sacred Way. Being huge, rough and lifelike, they can be rated as the treasure of the stone-carving art in Ming Dynasty.
At the end of the Sacred Way is Ling Xing Men. To the northeast of Ling Xing Men is Yu He Qiao (Imperial River Bridge). After passing the bridge, you will see the front gate of The Ming Tomb. The gate is called Zi Jin Cheng Da Men (Purple & Golden Gate). On the extant front gate was inlayed with a piece of soapstone, on which was carved with three golden regular scripts "The Ming Tomb". All sides of the stone were decorated with patterns of flowers and dragons playing in the clouds.
Behind the front gate are the main architectures, i.e., Ming Xiao Hall, Ming Tower, Treasure City. The Ming Xiao Hall is broad in scale and the stone decoration is elegant. In the middle of hall are enshrined the memorial tablets of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang and Empress Ma. The portraits of Zhu Yuanzhang and his empress Ma hung in the hall are duplications.
The extant relic of Ming Dynasty in The Ming Tomb is a 3-storyed-hall ground, on which stand pillars decorated with phoenix and dragon designs. Three stepping stacks are around the hall, in the middle of which are screens carved with relieves. On the upper screen is "Two Dragons Playing with a Pearl", while on the below is "Heavenly Horse Running in the Sky". All the designs were carved carefully, which deserves a good look.
What is worth mentioning is that the underground palace of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang - Bao Cheng (Treasure City) is behind the Ming Tower. Bao Cheng, which is also called Bao Ding (Treasure Top) is a round mound encircled by a brick wall. On the top of the mound are verdant trees with luxuriant leaves hiding the sunshine.
It is said that the underground palace was completely modeled on the Nanjing Imperial Palace of Ming Dynasty. It is estimated that the underground palace is larger than the excavated Ding Ling, which is one of the 13 tombs built for emperors in Ming Dynasty. It will be another wonder in the future.
The construction of The Ming Tomb took a considerable labor force and money that was exploited from the masses. In Ming Dynasty over 100,000 pines were planted in the tomb zone. Besides, more than 1000 deer were reared there. The tomb zone was guarded by more than 5600 soldiers.
Compared with the tombs built for the emperors in other dynasties, the scale and range of the imperial tombs of Ming Dynasty was rare.
Is it the luxury of emperors in ancient times or a solemn imperial parade? However, The Ming Tomb is a masterpiece of ancient architecture. That's why it becomes a resort of Nanjing today.