Eastern Qing Tombs or Qingdongling are located 150 km northwest of Tianjin. The entire complex covers an area of 2,500 square kilometers. The main tombs include those of the following emperors of Qing Dynasty (1744-1911): Shunzhi (1644-1661), Kangxi (1662-1722), Qianlong (1736-1796), Xianfeng (1851-1861), Tongzhi (1862-1875), and Empress Dowager Cixi (died 1908). In addition, four tombs containing the remains of 136 imperial concubines and one tomb for princesses are also located here.
Why the Eastern Qing Tombs is special
Eastern Qing Tombs are among the finest and largest tomb complexes in China. On the year of 2000, it was listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Eastern Qing Tombs highlights
A large white marble archway marks the main entrance to the Eastern Qing Tombs. Similar in design to traditional wooden memorial archways (pailou), its rectangular panels are carved with swirling patterns and other geometrical designs. Paired lions and dragons decorate the bases of the standing columns.
Great Red Gate
After passing through the marble archway, visitors could see the Great Red Gate (Dahongmen), which serves as the formal front gate of the entire tomb complex. There is a stele tower containing a large stone tablet mounted on the back of a tortoise-like creature known as a Bixi.
Stone figures and animals
Heading north after passing a small hill, which acts as a natural protective screen, visitors come to a road lined with 18 pairs of stone figures and animals. These sculptures include military officers, civil officials as well as lions, camels, elephants and unicorn-like beasts. The road continues through the Dragon and Phoenix Gate and across a seven-arch marble bridge 100 meters long. On the other side of the bridge is the Gate Long En which is the entrance to tomb of Emperor Shunzhi （called Xiaoling in Chinese）. Just north of the Gate is the Hall of Long En. This rectangular building rests on a marble platform, which extends to form a terrace in front of the hall, and is surrounded by for storing ancestral tablets and carrying out sacrifices to the ancestors.
The mausoleums of Emperor Qianlong, called the Yuling, and Empress Dowager Cixi, called the Dingdongling, have been renovated and open to visitors. The Qing Dynasty attained its greatest power and prosperity during the reign of Qianlong. He was emperor for 60 years (1736-1796). In 1743, after reigning for eight years, Qianlong began the construction of his mausoleum. The underground palace occupies an area of 327 square meters and consists of three arched chambers. Although it is smaller than the Dingling underground palace at the Ming Tombs, the Yuling Mausoleum houses finer stone engravings and sculptures.
Not far from the mausoleums of Qianlong, the mausoleums of Cixi was rebuilt entirely of Phoebe Nan Wood and decorated with gold leaf. Yet since Cixi died before the work was completed, the underground section of the mausoleum remains quite plain compared with the Yuling of Qianlong. But the fine workmanship displayed in the marble slab set between the staircases in front of the tomb and the balustrades in front of the hall is gorgeous: intricate carvings of lively dragons emerging from the waves and phoenixes hovering beneath the clouds, traditional symbols of the emperor and his empress.
Today, the Hall of Eminent Favor houses an exhibition of Cixi’s clothing, articles of daily use and a number of other burial relics discovered in the underground palace-painting albums, pillows, quits and her burial garments, including one gown decorated with the word fu (means good fortune), another of satin embroidered with the word shou (means longevity) and a dragon robe. The treasured 'Dharani' or Sacred Verse quilt woven in pure silk and embroidered with gold thread is also on display. A total of more than 25,000 Chinese characters are embroidered on this three-meter-wide quilt made in Nanjing.