Xiaoling Mausoleum of Ming Dynasty
Xiaoling Mausoleum of Ming Dynasty (Mingxiaoling) is one of the biggest imperial tombs in China. It lies in the eastern suburbs of Nanjing City at the southern foot of Zhongshan (Purple) Mountain. Emperor Chengzu, Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) and Queen Ma were buried there.
The construction of the mausoleum began during the Hongwu Emperor's life in 1381 and ended in 1405, during the reign of his son, the Yongle Emperor, with a huge expenditure of resources involving 100,000 labourers. The original wall of the mausoleum was more than 22.5 kilometres long. The mausoleum was built under a heavy guard of 5,000 troops.
At the entrance to the mausoleum, you will see the Dismounting Archway. As a gesture of deep respect, visitors would dismount their horses and sedans at this point. Not far from the entrance is the Tablet Pavilion called Si Fang Cheng. Here a majestic tablet was erected by order of Emperor Zhu Di, the fourth son of Zhu Yuanzhang, to eulogise his father's merits and virtues. The tablet is carried by Bixi, a legendary animal in the shape of a tortoise. Walking northwesterly across the bridge, you will see the winding 1800-metre long Sacred Way. Its middle section runs east-west and is called Shi Xiang Road. It is lined with several pairs of stone sculptured animals guarding the tomb. Each animal is postured differently and each conveys an auspicious meaning. For example, the lion, king of the animals, show the stateliness of the emperors; the camel, the symbol of desert and tropical areas, indicates the vast territory of the dynasty and the elephants show that the policies of the dynasty are to meet the desire of the roots of grass and the stabilisation of the dynasty. Beyond the animals is a pair of decorative columns called Hua Biao that are carved with dragons. From here the Sacred Way turns into a north-south direction and becomes known at Weng Zhong Road. This location is marked by stone carved statues of ministers and generals. Different from the straight sacred ways in the former dynasties, the Sacred Way at Xiaoling Mausoleum goes in different directions making it unique and unprecedented in Chinese history.