Lonely Planet review
The Ming Tombs are the final resting place of 13 of the 16 Ming emperors (the first Ming emperor, Hongwu, is buried in Nánjīng, which means ‘Southern Capital’ and was the first capital of the Ming dynasty). Billed with the Great Wall as Běijīng’s winning double act, the imperial graveyard can be a dormant and lifeless spectacle, unless you pack a penchant for ceremonial tomb architecture or Ming imperial genealogy. The Ming Tombs follow a standard imperial layout. In each tomb the plan consists of a main gate (líng mén), leading to the first of a series of courtyards and the main hall. Beyond this lie gates or archways leading to the Soul Tower (Míng Lóu), behind which rises the burial mound (tumulus). Three tombs have been opened to the public – Cháng Líng, Dìng Líng and Zhāo Líng. The road leading up to the tombs is a 7km stretch called the Spirit Way. Commencing with a triumphal arch, the path enters the Great Palace Gate, where officials once had to dismount, and passes a giant bìxì , which bears the largest stele in China. A guard of 12 sets of stone animals and officials ensues.