Ming TombsSome 50 kilometers northwest of the downtown Beijing, the Ming Tombs are generally combined with a visit to the Great Wall. Otherwise known as the “13 Tombs”, this is the burial site of 13 out of 17 emperors of the Ming Dynasty. However, the only one you can get a good look at is the tomb of Emperor Wanli, who reigned from 1537 to 1620. This tomb was unearthed in 1956. There are two others that have been uncovered, but the rest remain illusive.
A trip to the Ming Tombs is a standard part of the Great Wall tour package. But don't get your hopes up. The best part of the Ming Tombs is the road there. The spirit Way is the path leading to the mouth of the tomb. Along the path are bizarre, mythical stone monsters standing guard. To get to the tomb itself, you have to walk down many flights of stairs till you are deep inside the mountain. It is kind of creepy and cool to go down and down, but the actual tomb chambers are a little disappointing. There is not much in there, just a couple of stone rooms, excavated treasures.
Sacred Way (Shen Dao) is 7 kilometers long, the longest in China's royal tombs, from south to north across the center of the tombs area. It was thought to have leaded the emperors' souls to enter heaven. It was a path built as a part of the tomb for the Ming emperors, connecting the entrance with real tomb. It was built for the first tomb Changling - the tomb of Emperor Yongle at first, the most powerful emperor in the Ming dynasty. But as the later tombs were built either to the right or to the left, it became the main road to all of them. It is a long, straight path flanked by statues first of ancient government officials and then by animals. The Sacred Way ends at a pavilion sheltering a stone tablet. They formed one group, but each tomb is independent of the other. Each locates at the foot of a hill.