Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Beijing: Ming Tombs (明朝十三陵)

50km outside of Beijing lies a necropolis that is larger than Egypt's City of The Dead (85 sq km) and houses the remains of 13 Emperors and their treasures. Welcome to the Ming Tombs.

It's Chinese name literally means the thirteen tombs of the Ming dynasty. The site was chosen by the third Ming emperor, Yong Le when he moved the capital from Nanjing to Beijing in the 15th century.

According to our guide, this burial site had very good feng-shui, with the hills in the background and a river running through the front. And who says I don't pay attention to the guide?

According to legend, the infamous Empress Dowager Cixi also wanted to be buried here, but was rejected. She had to settle for another similar site east of Beijing, where years later, the Kuomintang raided and unceremoniously dumped her intact body aside to get to the treasures within her gravesite. I guess 'similar' wasn't good enough feng shui.

This is the main gate into one of the tombs. Entering the park through this gate means entering the netherworld symbolically. Upon returning into the 'world of the living', one must perform a ritual brushing off the dust from one's arms and torso and proclaim out loud, "I have returned!"

As there was not enough time to see all thirteen tombs (which we couldn't anyway as most of the others are still buried or out of bounds to tourists), we were brought to see just one, which was Ding Ling, the mausoleum of Emperor Wan Li. And no, I have no idea what 'visitace' means.

Ok, here's the story. Emperor Wanli, also known as Emperor Shenzong is the guy in the middle. He was the longest reigning Emperor during the Ming Dynasty, a total of 48 years. His wife, the Empress, is the lady to the right, Empress Xiaoduan. Now, the lady to the right was actually his favourite concubine, Lady Gong. But, as she was the mother of the future Emperor Gang Xong, she was posthumously conferred the title Empress Dowager.

The mausoleum had a really large and beautiful park . I guess, even the dead need to get their daily walk and fresh air....

Just trying out some macro shots.... Yummm..... Berries.....

Just another funny Chinglish signboard. Luxuriant??? Grassland???

This is not just any ditch. It is the Tunnel Gate that leads to the Brick Tunnel. Which leads to erm.... something underground, I think. I wasn't paying attention.

Ok, so here we are at the underground palace. Note the golden doors with its signature nine rows of nine knobs, symbolising the Emperor.

The tomb itself was about 150 feet deep, and contained a series of subterranean interlocking vaults and tunnels. And with no heating, it got really really cold. Good for the dead Emperors, definitely not good for us poor tourists...

And the first hall we enter, we see this sign. Dammit, how come we always get led through the 'back side' ????

Anyway, this was where the coffin was laid. There were a few Chinese tourists throwing coins and dollar notes into the 'coffin bed'.... Hmm... I wonder if it works the same way as the Fountain of Trevi... in which case, I ain't gonna be throwing any money here!

The Emperor's personal assistants were all killed and buried in these big red boxes, to accompany him on his journey to the netherworld. Hehehe just kidding.

Even when dead, the Emperor needs a place to lounge around, right? Hence they have prepared an elaborate marble throne for him, for when he gets too tired of .... erm....lying down.

We were then led through different halls, chambers and tunnels, all the while trying to figure out why on earth a dead guy (no offense) would need so much space???

And then it all ended here. Where we ... stop!

Ah we're back out in the open again. Next, we headed to another hall, this time to see the various artifacts and treasures that were preserved along with the Emperors.

Don't scribble.... but can I scratch? Or crash? Or steal?

Just about everything was gold or at least golden in colour. From gold coins....

to golden bathrobes.... even gold teapots and bowls.

There were also a quartet of horses, which I assumed was for the Emperor to play cowboys and indians in Hades....

And these were.... erm... chess pieces? Voodoo dolls? ...

Ah... back out in the world of the living again..... I have returned!!! ;)


Josh said...

Beautiful place! you seems to have enjoyed the trip. Good for you!

Amazonman said...

Thanks Josh. Appreciate it. Yes, I enjoyed Beijing.... If only it wasn't so cold! ;)