Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Thirteen Tombs

Last Saturday I went on a classic tour-bus excursion to the 十三陵,the Thirteen Tombs of the Ming Emperors. The tombs are technically within Beijing Municipality, but they're far enough out from the city center that they're surrounded by farmland. It's a nice place, and of course one with a lot of history, but not interesting enough to be worth more than a few pictures:

The 神道 or Divine Path leading to the tombs is protected by a menagerie of stone animals, including this fantastic beast. Somewhere out there is photographic evidence of me riding one of the stone horses, but before I could get my own camera out we were confronted by a couple of less-than-amused gardeners.

Here's me in front of the Changling, which if I remember right is the tomb of the Yongle Emperor Zhu Di. The building behind me, called the 明楼 (which for some reason is usually translated Soul Tower), isn't actually the tomb. Behind the tower is an enormous earth mound, under which Zhu Di is doing whatever dead Ming emperors do.

The Dingling (however silly it sounds in English, it means the Stable Tomb), is the only Ming tomb to have been officially excavated. Unfortunately, it was excavated just prior to the Cultural Revolution, so most of its contents, including the Wanli Emperor himself, have been destroyed. Just visible in the background of this picture is the freshly painted replica of the emperor's red coffin; the official plaques, pointing out that the coffin was a replacement, somehow neglected to mention anything about Red Guards. This tomb is a little more than 50 feet below ground, so it was a cool and damp alternative to the muggy surface.

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