The royals everywhere worried about their remains and hid them well, often with great care to have the suitable level of pomp and show. The Muslim rulers built elaborate mausoleums with gardens and fountains. In China the most famous tombs are those of the Ming Dynasty. Constructed in 1540, tombs of the 13 Ming Emperors are located at the foot of the Jundu mountains north of Beijing.
The way to the tombs begins at a giant turtle on whose back rests a large stone plaque – you have to touch the tail of the turtle for good health.
The Spirit way is 7 kilometers long and leads to the tombs. The way is lined with weeping willow trees, well groomed and beautiful gardens make this a serene walk with an otherworldly feel to it.
Giant carved statues of animals including tigers, dromedaries, and elephants on either side take one’s breath away as one steps onto the walk!
The excavations began prior to Chariman Mao’s time, and here he is seen posing with one of the elephants/
The statues lining the walkway include a mythical griffin-like beast and also many figures representing high officials.
The way to the inner burial chambers was keenly sought for all its imagined wealth, and discovered with great difficulty. The tomb structures are laid out like a large city and only three of the chambers have been opened so far.
When the Cultural revolution started, remains of the buried emperors from these tombs were dragged out and publicly condemned and burnt outside! Many artifacts were damaged and destroyed and all excavations were stopped. The fabrics and other materials deteriorated as soon as they came in contact with air. The tombs had been sealed without air by lighting lamps and sealing the doors – this used up all the oxygen and preserved the artifacts! Further excavation and restoration started after Mao’s death and the end of the cultural revolution.
We left to warning signs about not stepping on the grass – in unique Chinese style!
Next we visited the tombs of the Northern Sung dynasty near Luoyang. A lesser dynasty, an out of the way place with not much tourist traffic, this was apparent from the entrance itself.
The basic plan of these structures was quite similar to the Ming Dynasty tombs – here the the carved animals and officials have been rather hurriedly assembled and in hodge-podge order after excavation.
And the sadness and disrepair of this off the beaten-path monument tells us that not all is slick and shiny and perfect in China!
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