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The Sacred Way

sacred-way2The Sacred way (Shen Dao), also known as a Spirit Path or Divine Road, was a path built as part of the tomb for the Ming emperors, connecting the entrance with the real tomb. It was believed to have guided the emperors' souls to enter heaven.

sacred-way1The Sacred Way starts with a huge stone memorial archway lying at the front of the area. Constructed in 1540, during the Ming Dynasty, this archway is the earliest and biggest stone archway existing in China today. The way is lined with stone statues.

sacred-way3The Sacred Way stretches 7 kilometers from south to north through the center of the tombs area. It was originally built for the first tomb Changling, the tomb of Emperor Yongle, the most powerful emperor in the Ming dynasty. At the southern end of the mausoleum area is a large memorial archway called Pailou. Built in 1540, it is now a monumental construction, built of white marble with five arches. Six rectangular pillars support it with beautiful bas-relief carvings (lions, dragons, lotus flowers). It is 14 meters high and 28.86 meters wide. The central entrance was reserved for the body of the dead emperor. The living emperor had to use the left entrance when he came to pay homage to their ancestors. Alongside the Sacred Way are 18 pairs of marble figures lined up in antithesis; these marble figures, sculptured from whole stones, were erected over 500 years ago. The tradition of erecting marble figures as guards of honor in front of the mausoleum began in the Han Dynasty. This signified the dignity of the emperor, symbolized good fortune, and warded off evil influence.