Zhu Yuanzhang (1328–1398), the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty (also known as the Hongwu Emperor), was buried in the tomb of Ming Xiaoling; he was the only Ming emperor buried outside Beijing. The area surrounding the tomb is the Ming Xiaoling Scenic Area. A tree-lined pathway winds around pavilions and picnic grounds and ends at scenic Zixia Lake, ideal for strolling. A combo ticket for the tomb and the Linggu Temple Scenic Area is ¥100.
The first section of this magnificent mausoleum is 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'). The other Ming emperors are buried outside Beijing at the Ming Tombs (十三陵, Shísān Líng).
From Muxuyuan metro station (Line 2), it’s a 1.6km walk uphill. Tour bus Y3 from the city centre also takes you here.