Monday, October 08, 2012

Thirteen Royal Tombs of the Ming Dynasty - Dingling [明十三陵定陵] @ Beijing, China

With thirteen gigantic tombs spread over eighty square kilometers, it is impossible to cover the whole area within the ninety so minutes i was there; we did not even manage to catch a glimpse of those legendary elephant statues along the scenic Sacred Way! 

Therefore, we have to be contented with just Dingling; the resting place of Emperor Wanli, 13th and longest reigning monarch of the Ming Dynasty.

Dingling (circled in the picture), as contrary to what my tour guide told us, was only the third largest tomb (and not the largest) although he was correct that it is the only emperor tomb excavated so far in modern China history.

As we are aware, geomancy plays a very important role in the location of tombs for Chinese and for the emperors who aim to have their dynasty rule the land forever; they were all the more prepared to sacrifice labour and gold to build a massive mausoleum for their afterlife.

Walking is a travel necessity in China and i am not complaining! It's good to have some exercise and nothing's better than doing it in a temperature that hardly hovered above 20 degrees celcius. 

Compared to those stone and marble structures in the Forbidden City, unpolluted air at the Ming Tombs has thankfully kept the same structures in mint condition! 

Cypress trees seemed to be a favourite among emperors in the Ming and Qing dynasties. 

The only elephants i managed to see that day. I was pretty disappointed (together with my dad) when we heard that the Sacred Way was out of our way and would waste precious time [Google map appears to refute what he said though; asshole]. 

Soul Tower - i would touch on this a while later. Before the tower, there was really nothing much to see as two of the main buildings have already been razed to the grounds, leaving just the base foundation. 

Making our way up and towards the entrance of the underground palace. 

Archaeologists gained entry to the underground palace via this tunnel! Don't belittle this tunnel as it was the only access point for the emperor's coffin and was accidentally discovered when the bricks hiding the tunnel collapsed. 

Entering the palace of the dead! As the chambers were located 27 meters below ground (equivalent to a ten-storey HDB flat), we had to walk down many flights of stairs. 

With five main chambers, both the left (the entrance) and right chambers were empty as freak weather then (we are talking hundreds of years ago) made it more convenient for both empresses to be buried in the rear chamber together with the emperor.

These coffins are merely replicates as the real ones were already decayed. As you could probably notice from the picture, it is a coffin in a coffin. Hence, according to the guide, the clothes worn by the empresses and emperor were in really good condition when they were first exhumed. 

Stone throne for the emperor in the netherworld! There were two other similar but smaller thrones for the empresses in the middle chamber. Note the amount of money on the throne! 

Five sacrificial utensils that consisted of an incense burner, two candlestick holders and two vases; items that hardly require the word "sacrificial". Frankly, i never thought underground palaces would be so gloomy and colourless! 

Stone gate at the front chamber which used some kind of a self locking mechanism. Xiao Cheng was explaining the concept for which i was lost after a minute. 

Diamond Wall (金刚墙) - the main gateway for the underground palace and was sealed with bricks after the burial. 

Exiting the underground palace by climbing up yet again a few flights of stairs! The cavity you see now was filled with earth before the excavation in 1956. 

Approaching the Soul Tower (明楼) -it symbolises the existence of the tomb and every material used to construct this tower was made of stone, not wood! 

An upright stone slab, like a headstone, was erected in the center of the tower with the name of the Emperor inscribed on it. 

This is like a scaled down great wall that surrounded the tomb; i wanted so much to walk all the way to see if there was anything interesting. As usual, time was limited.

Last look at the Soul Tower.

Vendors selling cute brollies! I should have bought one for Jovyn! 

Fancy yourself as the emperor or empress? Utilise the service of these photographers. One of the many regrets i had on this trip was not paying a small sum of money to don an emperor suit for the sake of being an emperor for one photographic moment! 

Aunties holding on to plastic bags would pester you to buy some fresh dates, which were unlike the dried red dates we are accustomed to. 

Map of Dingling for your reference!

Satellite map of Dingling! See that red star? That was the place where i stupidly took out 3 x 100 RMB to pay for a 30 RMB book (the 100 RMB note is red just like the S$10 note)! I realised my mistake within three seconds but by that time, the vendor had already pocketed the money and claimed i only passed her 3 X 10 RMB.

Bloody bitch! 

2 comments:

  1. In this blog of yours, I found so many interesting themes and even if I did not yet responded to none, you to know that I read them with great interest. Success.

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  2. Thank you! That's very encouraging! :)

    ReplyDelete

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