Why is Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum special?
The Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum is the tomb of the Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398), the founder of the Ming Dynasty and his Empress Ma. Located in the east of the historical center of Nanjing, it is one of the biggest imperial tombs in China, which lies at the southern foot of Zhongshan Mountain (also called Purple Mountain). Along with the Ming Tombs in Beijing, the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum of Nanjing was inscribed as part of the World Heritage Sites ‘Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties’.
The structure of the mausoleum adopted the style of the mausoleums of the Tang and Song Dynasties. Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang made great reforms of the imperial tombs system. He changed the hillock above the ground from the previous traditional style to a rounded shape, canceled the bedroom palace, and expanded the building for offering sacrifice, thus initiating the imperial tomb style of the Ming and Qing dynasties.
Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum Highlights
The Sacred Way
Dismounting Archway is the entrance of the mausoleum. As a gesture of deep respect, visitors would dismount their horses and sedans at this point in ancient times. 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 eulogize 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-meter 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.
Continuing north along the Sacred Way, you will reach the main body of the mausoleum. There you will start from the Golden Water Bridge (Jin Shui Qiao) and arrive at the main gate named Wen Wu Archway. Outside the gate, there is a stone tablet with words carved in six languages notifying visitors of the importance of the mausoleum. You next arrive at the Xiao Ling Hall, the main structure of the mausoleum. It was rebuilt in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) and was smaller in size than the original. Figures of Emperor Zhu and Empress Ma are hanging inside on the wall.