One of the places I visited on my first trip to China in 1987 was the Ming Tombs, which are about 30 miles northwest of Beijing. The Ming Tombs refer to the mausoleums of 13 emperors of the Ming Dynasty, which ruled China from 1368 to 1644.
The first two Ming emperors ruled from Nanjing in the south of China, but the third emperor, Zhu Di, moved the capital to Beijing. It was Zhu Di who began building the Forbidden City and who built the first of the Ming Tombs.
One of the most unusual of the thirteen tombs is Dingling, the tomb of Zhu Yijun. This tomb in an underground palace complete with a throne room for the spirit of the emperor. I was fortunate enough to be able to tour Dingling.
The tombs are approached along a Spirit Way, also known as the Avenue of the Animals because of the large stone animals and officials who stand guard along the road.
The Ming Tombs are truly fascinating both for the architecture of the structures and for the glimpse they provide of Chinese culture and history. If you are ever in Beijing, the tombs are well worth a visit.
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