Ming Xiaoling Scenic Area

Top choice tomb

in Nanjing

This scenic area on Zijin Mountain has loads of opportunities for rambling, but the main attraction is Ming Xiaoling Tomb, the magnificent mausoleum of Zhu Yuanzhang (1328–1398), the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty (also known as the Hongwu Emperor), and the only Ming emperor buried outside Beijing.

A tree-lined pathway winds around pavilions and picnic grounds and ends at scenic Zixia Lake, ideal for strolling.

The mausoleum begins with a 618m ‘spirit path’, lined with stone statues of lions, camels, elephants and horses that drive away evil spirits and guard the tomb. Among them lurk two mythical animals: a xiè zhì, which has a mane and a single horn on its head, and a qílín, which has a scaly body, a cow’s tail, a deer’s hooves and one horn.

Follow the path (and the crowds) past halls and a temple and you'll come to the grand stone frontage of the tomb. The uphill tunnel leads to a retaining wall for a huge earth tumulus (called the Soul Tower; 明楼, Mínglóu), beneath which is the unexcavated tomb vault of the emperor. On the wall are inscribed the characters '此山明太祖之墓' ('This hill is the tomb of the first Ming emperor').

From Muxuyuan metro station (Line 2), it’s a 1.6km walk uphill. Tour bus Y3 from the city centre also takes you here.