Nanjing, which is situated in the southern region of China, served as the capital of China during the beginning of the Ming Dynasty. During this time period. Emperor Zhudi, ruler of the third Ming Dynasty, made the decision to relocate the capital to Beijing so that the border would be in the north, where it was more calm. During this period of transition, not only were the well-known Ming Tombs constructed, but also the Imperial Palace and several temples. The term “Thirteen Ming Graves” comes from the fact that during the course of history, thirteen Emperors have been laid to rest inside the tombs.
These graves are astonishingly big, with a diameter that measures 40 kilometres. Because of its magnitude, the completion of the structure took more than two centuries to reach. The pathway that leads to the Ming Tombs is flanked by 18 pairs of enormous stone sculptures. This pathway leads to the Changling, which is the tomb of Emperor Yongle, who was by far the most powerful and famous of all Emperors during the Ming Dynasty.
The site of the Ming Tomb was selected with consideration given to geomancy and Feng Shui principles. This specific spot is encircled on all sides by scenic hills that undulate in a way that works to provide a buffering screen to the north. There is a hill known as Dragon Hill to the east, Tiger Hill to the west, and the Wenyu River to the south of the area. These natural features collaborate to provide a protective barrier around the Ming Tombs.
Heavenly Longevity Hill was originally known by a another name, but Emperor Zhudi renamed it because he was so happy with the area. Although not all of the graves are accessible to the general public, some of them are, and they will include the Chang, Ding, and Zhao tombs. The Sacred Way is a path that runs seven kilometres from south to north and through the middle of the area that is home to the tombs. It is known by this name. This was constructed in the beginning for the very first of the Ming Tombs, which was called Changling and was Emperor Yongle’s tomb. In spite of this, when more tombs were constructed over the course of time, the Sacred Way eventually became the primary route that led to all of the graves.
Although the graves are located close to one another, each one may be considered a separate tomb. The Changling Tomb is the biggest of the 13 tombs, and as you can expect, it is pretty remarkable. Zhu Di, the third Emperor of the Ming Dynasty, and his wife, the Empress Xu, were laid to rest inside the Changling Tomb. During his reign, which lasted from 1402 to 1424, this Emperor made significant advancements in the fields of culture, economics, politics, military affairs, and diplomacy.
The mausoleum of DingLing is where the thirteenth Emperor Wanli and his two wives were laid to rest when their lives were brought to an end. This Emperor was born in 1563, and just six years after his birth, he was elevated to the position of Prince. When he became ten years old, he already had the position of Emperor. He went on to control the nation for the next 48 years, during which time he accomplished a lot for it.
In 1584, when the Emperor was just 22 years old, work started below ground on the erection of this specific tomb. Six years later, in 1624, the tomb was finally finished, but in 1644, the same year that the Ming Dynasty fell, it was damaged during a peasant rebellion. Damage was done to the Dingling tomb up to the time of Qing Emperor Qianlong, but in 1914, the Gate and Hall of Eminent Favor were destroyed by fire once again.
To this day, only one of the thirteen Ming tombs—specifically, the DingLing tomb—has been unearthed and explored. During this operation, almost 3,000 pieces of priceless and irreplaceable treasure were discovered, some of which included a golden crown and four Phoenix crowns that had been worn by the Emperor and Empress.