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Ming Tombs

ming-tombs1 The Ming Tombs, situarated in Changping County, northwest of Beijing. These tombs are the tombs of thirteen Ming Dynasty Emperors who ruled China from 1368 to 1644.

ming-tombs2Covering a hilly area of 40 acres, the Ming Tombs, was selected in 1409. In 1424 the Yongle Emperor, Zhu Di, was the first Ming Emperor to be buried here in his mausoleum called the Changling. He was the third Ming Emperor. His father and founder of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Yuanzhang, was buried in Nanjing, and his nephew, the second Ming Emperor, from whom he usurped the throne, escaped and disappeared from official history.

All in, thirteen of sixteen Ming Emperors were buried in this royal necropolis, including Empresses and many concubines, some buried alive to accompany the Emperor to his next world. It was in the reign of the Zhengtong Emperor (1436-1449) that the practice of entombing live imperial concubines was abolished. The last Emperor to be entombed here was the Chongzhen Emperor, Zhu Youjian, in his mausoleum called Siling. This last Ming Emperor hanged himself in 1644 at Coal HillMing Tomb, China just outside the Forbidden City when Beijing fell to the rebel army of Li Zicheng. However, the succeeding Qing (Manchu) conquerors, under Chinese imperial protocol, gave the last Ming Emperor a decent burial due to an Emperor.

Of the remaining three missing Emperors, the founder of the Ming Dynasty was buried in Nanjing, the second Emperor vanished when the Yongle Emperor usurped the throne and the seventh Ming emperor insisted on being buried in Jinshan closer to Beijing. Only three tombs are opened to the public viz Changling of the Yongle Emperor, Dingling of the Wanli Emperor and Zhaoling of the Longqing Emperor. Of these, only one tomb, the Dingling, has its tumulus (underground chamber) opened. Chinese archaeologists are excited about opening the Changling tumulus housing the powerful Yongle Emperor and possibly containing the remaining copy of the Great Dictionary of Yongle (Yongle Dadian).