Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fashionista's Travels: Ming Tombs

Aside from the Great Wall of China, we actually were lucky to also have the opportunity to visit Ming shi san ling (or translated as the thirteen tombs of the Ming dynasty). I've never fancied visiting a burial site or a mausoleum before but there's a first for everything, right?

Here's me with the help of the English - Mandarin dictionary trying to converse with my new friend, whom I've met on the bus when we were on our way to the  Great Wall the day before. 

As with our trip to the Great Wall, in which we took the bus, this time we also took a bus to the Ming tombs, specifically, to Dingling. Dingling is located about 50km away from Beijing, so the bus trip took roughly about an hour or so. We took bus no 925 from Deshengmen (the bus terminal not far from Jishuitan station, the same bus terminal where we took bus no 919 to the Great Wall) to Dingling. The bus took us directly to the entrance of Dingling so there's no need to change buses as some of the guides on the web would tell you.

There are actually 13 tombs in all (out of all 16 emperors from the Ming dynasty). Unfortunately, only 3 tombs can be visited and out of all three, only Dingling (the one we visited) has been excavated. 

The entrance to Dingling. For those who are interested in visiting, the entrance fee is around RMB60 (roughly MYR30). 

And this is what they have written on the board that Raden is reading: 

Located at the eastern foot of the Dayu Mountains, Dingling is the joint burial tomb of the 13th Ming emperor Zhu Yi Jun and his two empresses. Zhu Yi Jun (1563 - 1620) whose reigning title was Wanli and posthumous title is Shenzong, ascended the throne at the age of 10 and ruled for 48 years until he died at the age of 58. It took six years to build Dingling, construction of which started in November 1584 and ended in June 1590. Dingling covers an area of 180,000 sq meters. 

The Underground Palace of Dingling is the only one of the Ming Tombs excavated so far. With the approval of the State Council, the trial excavation started in May 1956 and was finished one year later. With a total floor space of 1,195 square meters, the Underground Palace is composed of five stone chambers: the front chamber, the middle chamber, the rear chamber, and the left and right annex chambers. More than 3,000 pieces of cultural relics were unearthed from Dingling. In 1959, Dingling Museum was set up at the original site and was opened to the public. 

From the main entrance...

It's quite a long walk from the main entrance to the inner courtyard of Dingling.

Met a fellow Malaysian, Syed Danial who arrived at Qianmen Hostel (where we were staying) from Russia (he took the trans-siberia train) on our third day in Beijing. So we invited him to join our journey to Dingling and he agreed. We're friendly that way =). 

It's quite a journey up, but the view is magnificent.

Souvenir shops in the courtyard.

As can be seen, expect plenty of tourists if you plan to visit Dingling. And most of them are actually from mainland China. 

As usual, in his true Malaysian style, my brother can't resist acting against the advice displayed on the board.

I wasn't able to take photos of our entrance towards the Underground Palace because of the tight security, scanners (just like when you'd check into the departure lounge at the airport) and warnings of no photography allowed everywhere. Post entrance, we had to walk a few flights of stairs down to the burial chambers

The Underground Palace (as the mausoleum is called) is fitted with air-cond so it's actually quite cool and breezy. Money donated by tourist at Emperor Wanli's coffin.

This is the rear chamber. 

According to the board put up in the rear chamber, this is the main chamber of the Underground Palace. Inside the chamber there was a coffin bed on which the coffins of the emperor and empresses were placed (note: when the emperor died, the empresses were buried with him so that they could accompany him to the afterlife). The coffin of the emperor is in the middle and flanked by the empresses on both sides (note: there are two empresses). Jade materials were found between the coffins. The burial articles for the emperor and empresses were kept in 26 cases made of nanmu (a kind of hardwood) on the sides of each coffin. Unfortunately when the Underground Palace was discovered, part of the coffins and the burial articles had decayed. Therefore the burial articles on display are copies of the originals. 

Photos depicting the emperors of China. 

Plenty of tourists everywhere. The large red wooden box at the far right is the coffin for the emperor and the slightly smaller red wooden box next to it is the one containing the empress. What surprised me was finding out that the empress was buried alive with the emperor. I guess it's her duty to follow the emperor to the afterlife together.

Among the treasures (or their replicas) that were buried with the emperor.

As you can see, this place is huge! It was also cool in an eerie way and a bit drafty at certain parts of the chambers.

Even the doors are huge.

There is only one way in and one way out of the Underground Palace. After walking up a few flights of stairs, we finally reached the exit door. 

Did I mention how huge the doors are?

And this is the exit from the tomb. There's different pathways leading to the entrance and another pathway leading out of the exit. This means that once you have made the decision to enter the Underground Palace, there's no turning back. 

There was a board located not far from the exit which wrote:

It's here that a stone slab was found in September 1956 when the Underground Palace was excavated, on which the inscription reads: 16 zhang further and 3.5 zhang deep to the Diamond Wall (1 zhang equals 3.33 meters). Guided by the inscription on the stone slab the archeologists finally found the Diamond Wall - the entrance to the Underground Palace.

Finally made it outside. Yeay! For those who intend to visit Dingling, expect to spend a couple of hours inside the Underground Palace. The place is definitely huge, and it's quite a distance. Be forewarned that from the entrance of the Underground Palace, you have to walk a few flights of stairs down and to go out of the Palace you also need to walk a few flights of stairs up. That means, if you have problem walking, or your knees are a lil' bit shaky, this visit is definitely not recommended for you. As I mentioned before, there's no turning back once you've entered the mausoleum, you have to walk all the way to the exit. 

Dingling's museum right outside the main entrance of the mausoleum. We didn't get to visit this as it was quite late and the museum was already closed for the day.

For more information on Dingling, the Ming tombs and how to get there, you can click [here] and [here].

Hopefully there's more visits to China in the future for me. The country has a beautiful historical past and I hope to be able to experience more of this huge nation. To beautiful ancient history and more historical sites in the future. 

xoxo Mrs Fashionista

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