Dennis Wright's Blog

The Ming Tombs and the Sacred Way

Posted in China, Far East Cruise 2007, Video by Dennis Wright on June 18, 2007

The Sacred Way (Shen Dao), a wide avenue flanked by two rows of willow trees, was the ancient ceremonial pathway to the Ming Tombs where 13 of the 16 Ming Emperors are buried. The tombs themselves are loosely clustered in a rural area round 30 miles North West of Beijing.

To get to the Sacred Way from the car park you first have to run the gauntlet of a row of souvenir stalls staffed by screaming harpies. At the first sight of a coach party they strike up a deafening din as they try to persuade you to buy any amount of tomb related memorabilia.

If you make it past them you come to the ShenGong ShengDe Stele Pavilion, built in 1435.

Chang Ling Tomb Arch

Entering through the arch you find a 50 ton dragon-headed stone tortoise bearing a massive stone tablet. It looks like something out of a Terry Pratchett novel. Impressive but weird and bewildering.

Once past the big tortoise you are on to the Sacred Way itself. In addition to the willow trees there are statues of animals (mythical and otherwise) and, further along, court officials, soldiers, etc. The statues come in pairs of the same animal or creature, one standing guard to protect the Emperor’s tomb while the other is seated, resting. I would be fascinated to watch them swap shifts.

China Sacred Way Camel

Apparently just walking along and looking at the statues is not enough.

China Sacred Way

We had to cherish them. Naomi obliged.

China Sacred Way

China Sacred Way

To say the statues are around 500 years old they are in excellent condition. When 500 years old I reach, look as good I will not.

China Sacred Way

Around half way along the avenue was a gift shop. We took the opportunity to buy Esther a genuine Beijing Olympics T shirt, not having had the chance in Beijing the day before.

Note: The video below is high bitrate. Playing time 0:33.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

As we came to the end of the Sacred Way our coach was waiting to take us to visit one of the tombs, but not before we had to endure another chorus of screeching harpies. The sound was so similar to the first auditory attack that it was easy to imagine those screaming women who staff the stalls had hitched a lift on our coach to get a second shot at us.


3 Responses

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  1. calvin said, on August 13, 2011 at 5:49 am

    The animals look cute! Why they are horses, tortoise and those beasts? No dogs, cats or rabbits right?

  2. […] Hasta la vista, Vista! Vista is on trial and my XP install disk is within easy reach « The suckiness of Vista was evident long ago The Changeling Tomb » The Ming Tombs and the Sacred Way June 18th, 2007 This post has been moved here. […]

  3. Dennis Wright said, on June 20, 2007 at 11:50 am

    There is a good account of the history of the Ming Tombs here. In particular, it sheds light on the significance of the giant stone tortoise in the stele pavilion and goes into what is written on the stele.

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