Ming Xiao Ling, Nanjing

The mausoleums of Nanjing are historically significant to all of China, but information about them can be confusing and spread out over the web-o-sphere, so I wanted to consolidate it for my readers 🙂 If you haven’t yet, go read Part 1 about the Sun Yat-Sen Mausoleum and come back!

If you’re planning to visit the mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen, you might as well go see the 600-year-old Ming Dynasty tomb while you’re in the area! The two are fairly close together at the foot of Purple Mountain, and are accessible by private car or bus. You could walk, but it may take you a while. There are a few entrances to the tomb area, the most popular being the entrance that puts you right onto Spirit Way or Elephant Road, a pathway lined with huge stone animal sculptures.

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
This is my new friend, the Chinese unicorn-lion. No seriously – this is a Chinese unicorn called a “xiezhi” It was described to us as a mix of a lion, tiger, ox, and dragon. I can assure you it looks nothing like a Western unicorn. According to legends, if there was disagreement in a court of law, a xiezhi would be brought into court and would instinctively know who was guilty, and would ram them with its horn. This one is a nice xiezhi which is why it has no horn.

Be aware that they charge for entrance to the grounds (70 RMB, which is about $10.75 USD), because they don’t want the tomb becoming overrun with tourists like the mausoleum of Dr. Sun Yat-Sen. Sun Yat-Sen’s mausoleum is a point of pride for modern day China because it celebrates post-imperial politics, so they encourage everyone to see it. This site, on the other hand, is a look back into dynastic China, which the Chinese government isn’t quite as proud of. But don’t let the money stop you – I promise it’s worth it. The grounds here are huge. On our little tour we passed a big open field, dozens of food stands, thousands of flowering trees, a stream, a small cultural museum, and several long pathways with stone sculptures. I focus mainly on the area of the tomb itself, but if you want to get your money’s worth, take a stroll! You could spend hours here.

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
The quintessential blossom pic.

First and foremost, I want to break down the ridiculous number of names used to describe the emperor buried here. He was the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty and is most commonly referred to as Hongwu Emperor. However, he’s sometimes referred to as Zhu Yuangzhang (his birth name), Guorui (his courtesy name), and Ming Taizu (his temple name). The site itself is called Ming Xiaoling, “Ming” referring to the dynasty and “ling” meaning mausoleum.

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there

The biggest reason to check out Ming Xiaoling is because it truly feels ancient. It was dubbed a UNESCO World Heritage site, and I can see why. It took over 20 years, 100,000 laborers, and 5,000 security guards to complete the site during the Ming Dynasty in the late 1300s. Before visiting Ming Xiaoling, it’s important to realize that anything made of wood was reconstructed some time after the Taiping Rebellion, which was basically a civil war where tons of stuff was destroyed. However, anything made of stone has been there for over 600 years, and that totally makes up for it.

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
See that stone bit you have to walk over to pass through the doorway? Men are supposed to step with their left foot first and women with their right because the right size shows weakness and inferiority. I made sure to step with my left every time in rebellion.

The actual burial site of the emperor is a heavily guarded secret, and has been since he was first laid to rest. Rather than being buried towards the back of the mausoleum, at the foot of the mountain like a normal emperor, they went into the mountain and “off to the side somewhere”, so his remains are supposedly back in the forest-covered area behind the big building. According to legend, 13 identical funeral processions started from the 13 city gates to confuse potential burglars… and apparently everyone is still a little confused.

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there

The first building you come across when you approach the temple area houses a massive stone tortoise at the base of a large stone of homage to the emperor. According to our teacher, this tortoise represents the 6th son of the dragon, who likes to hold things – what an exciting life he leads as a holder of things. By the way, the 4th son of the dragon is explained in my previous post. When you walk through this building, you’re confronted with tablets and carvings that are clearly of ancient importance. Eric’s teacher said these are the originals that were here during the initial construction and you can tell because they look like they’re constantly on the verge of falling apart. I made sure to put my fingerprints all over them 🙂

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
Super sweet ancient dragon carving in front of some ancient inscripted stone tablets.

On the other side of the building is a long pathway lined with all kinds of greenery, leading to what used to be a huge house for visiting emperors to stay in, kind of like an emperor hotel. It’s now a gift shop, which is I guess what they would have wanted… I’m cringing at the thought.

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
This is 1 of 2 small yellow-glazed temple-shaped structures on the sides of the walkway up to where the old house used to be. You write characters on pieces of paper and burn them in these structures to call back the spirit of the dead for sacrificial ceremonies. Although I don’t think they’d let you anymore.
LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
See the big flat stones on the ground? That’s part of the old foundation!
LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
If you go to Ming Xiaoling, be sure to say ‘hey’ to my favorite tree in China. That brick and the stones on that raised area were all part of the foundation of the old “emperor hotel”.

As you walk through this area, it’s awesome to imagine what it would have looked like when that was the massive garden of a regal home. This is where you have to do a big of imagining. The big flat round stones – on either side of the gift shop, and off to the left where this amazing tree is growing through a short brick wall – are part of the old foundation of this huge compound. Follow the big stone remnants and you’ll realize how massive this property once was. The professor with us said they had a separate building on the grounds just for getting dressed and ready to go to temple.

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
This painting of the emperor is in the gift shop. According to our teacher, it’s the only one surviving that actually looks like him. He supposedly wasn’t a very attractive person, so he burned all the paintings and murdered the painters who didn’t flatter him. True story.

Walk past the gift shop, down another long pathway, and you’ll come across the gem of this entire property – a huge colorful structure called the Soul Tower perched on top of an ancient stone tower. To access the top, you walk through the dark tunnel at the base of the tower, then up some stone steps. From the top, you can walk behind the building to see the forest-covered area behind the tower where the body supposedly lies. Inside the building is a big display describing the tombs of the Ming and Qing dynasty, but the teacher with us said it’s nothing unique or important because “the building is fake” – in other words, it’s not original.

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
I love how people would pose for a picture at the top of the mausoleum and their family member below would snap the pic.
LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
Remember when I explained the way they used sticky rice in the mortar while building The Great Wall and the Nanjing Ancient City Wall? Same situation here, but something about the massive damage done at one point to this place has caused the rice to drip slowly down the wall and pool up on the ledges – that’s what I’m trying to show with this strange picture.

From what I can gather, this huge stone structure is just big to be impressive and pay homage to the emperor. People used to think the body was inside the stone somewhere, but it’s definitely not.

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
The characters seen on this wall, which is at the top of the tunnel that takes you through the mausoleum and up to the Soul Tower, are a subtle diss to the Ming Dynasty. They used a character that was only different by one stroke, but had the same pronunciation, changing the left side of the character from sun to wood. The right side of the character is the moon, and sun and moon together represent good things, prosperity, etc. The moon without the sun is nothing. The moon doesn’t produce its own light, so moon plus wood means no light. This was meant as a subtle slap in the face to the Ming Dynasty.
LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there
This forested area behind the mausoleum is where the body is actually buried – but the specific coordinates and depth is a closely guarded secret.

LA VIE SANS PEUR Life Without Fear travel and lifestyle blog. Anxious girl, fearless life. | Ming Xiaoling Hongwu Emperor Mausoleum Nanjing, China tourism zhu yuanzheng historical cultural significant important dynasty ancient unesco world heritage site visit tips how to history significance culture dragon gate tomb coffin burial getting there

If you’re craving more history and you didn’t read the captions on the pictures, go back and do so 🙂 I’ve hidden lots of cool bits of information in them.

Click here to watch the video I made about my visit to these mausoleums!

Thanks for reading! Talk to you soon,

signature

 

THE OFFICIAL LVSP YOUTUBE CHANNEL!

CLICK TO SUBSCRIBE TO LVSP WEEKLY UPDATES!

Pin this article:

HISTORY

Photos captured on this affordable starter DSLR camera and this phone (which has a pretty awesome camera)

Suggested Reading/Watching:


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *