Xianling Tomb in Hubei Province
The Xianling Tomb encompasses about 40 hectares.
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The Xianling Tomb in Hubei Province (together with the Eastern Qing Tombs and the Western Qing Tombs in Hebei Province, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization [UNESCO] inscribed it as the World Heritage List under the title of “the Ming and Qing Imperial Tombs” on November 30, 2000)
Located on Songlin Hills, about 7.5 kilometers northwest Zhongxiang City, Central China’s Hubei Province, the Xianling Ming Tomb is the combined mausoleum of Ming Emperor Jiajing’s father and his mother who were given posthumous titles of Emperor Gong Ruixian 死后追溢恭睿献皇帝 and Empress Dowager Zhangsheng. The tomb was constructed in 1540. It has been a cultural relic site under state protection since the start of 1988. The Xianling Tomb encompasses about 600 mu (40 hectares or 100 acres).
The Ming Dynasty saw the reign of 16 emperors, excluding the last three who lived in exile after the downfall of the dynasty, over a period of 277 years. Thirteen of them were buried in the Ming Tombs in Beijing. Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398, ruled 1368-1398), founder of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) declared Nanjing his capital and died there. Therefore his tomb, the Xiaoling Tomb is in Nanjing, the capital of Jiangsu Province.
When the Xianling Tomb started to be constructed in 1519, it was a tomb for Zhu Youyuan (1476-1519), the uncle of Emperor Wuzong. Differing from a tomb for an emperor, it was built up to the standards of a prince. But the Emperor died in 1521, leaving no heir and one of his cousins, Zhu Houcong (1507-1566), the son of Zhu Youyuan, succeeded him as Emperor Jiajing (1522-1566). After coming to power, Emperor Jiajing conferred the title of Emperor Gong Ruixian on his late father and began to convert his father’s tomb into an Imperial mausoleum in 1521. All of black tiles of the tomb were replaced by yellow glazed ones and it was renamed the Xianling Tomb. Over the next 37 years, the Emperor upgraded and renovated the tomb. It became the largest single Imperial tomb of the Ming Dynasty. He also buried his mother, Empress Dowager Zhangsheng, in the mausoleum in 1539. In the last years of the Ming Dynasty, peasant rebels led by Li Zicheng (1606-1645) captured the Xianling Tomb and wooden parts of most of the buildings in the complex were destroyed by fire.
In the Qing Dynasty, however, the local government preserved the site. As a result, the historical heritage still survives until this day.
Passing a large pond and the dismount stele where officials dismounted, the tourist will enter the tomb complex through the New Red Gate. Walking through an empty yard overgrown with weeds, the tourist will step onto one of a group of three marble bridges, which spans a stream. The stream is named the “Nine-Bend Imperial Stream,” which is one of the architectural features of the tomb. Curving through the compound, the stream separates the tomb complex into four architectural units, which are connected by marble or stone bridges. This kind of salient feature cannot be found in other Imperial Ming tombs. Through the Old Red Gate, and another courtyard, the tourist will find himself /herself at the Imperial Tablet Pavilion. It is actually a structure with only grey brick walls and a stone tortoise left. The other parts have gone, although, the lofty walls still reveal the former splendour of the building. Across another group of stone bridges and through a pair of stone ornamental columns, the tourist will step onto the “Spirit Way” trimmed by pine trees. Different from the straight “Spirit Way” found in other Ming tombs, this features a winding avenue, symbolizing a crouching dragon. In the middle of the path, there is a stone-slab-paved road. On both sides of the road are pebble-paved areas. The stone slabs and pebbles stand for the backbone and scales of the dragon. “Spirit Way” passes 12 sets of stone animals and officials. Standing on one of the last groups of stone bridges, the tourist can See the Ming Tower, the highest structure in the complex on the southern slope of the Songlin Hills and facing the winding “Spirit Way.” Walking across the bridge, the tourist comes to the Inner Pond of the complex. The round pool is another of the prominent characteristics of the tomb. It is a huge resource for fire control. And ancient architects also expected to use it to help the nearby burial vault keep dry.
Passing the Square City, which is actually the square stone platform of a structure burned out by the rebels. Standing on the watchtower with four arching eaves and a yellow glazed-tiled roof, the tourists can See everything. Scattered along an axis, they have a symmetrical layout. A wall stretches out of the tower from both is its left and right sides. Connected by a brick platform, it surrounds two huge earth mounds, the “Treasure City.” The coffin of his father was moved to the burial chamber beneath the new one through a path under the platform. As a result, the Xianling Tomb has become the only Imperial Ming tomb with two treasure cities. It is also a feature of the tomb. And the vaults beneath them have not been exhumed yet.
The most impressive salient feature of the Xianling Tomb is its serenity. The Songlin Hills are covered by dense forest, which adds to an already spectacular sight. Inside the complex and even standing on the watchtower, the visitor can’t See any modern buildings. Instead, different kinds of old trees are everywhere; there are overgrown weeds and various flowers in full bloom. Hardly disturbed by human beings, they look calm and relaxed. It adds to a charming tranquility to the tombs, which the tourist has not felt at other cultural heritage sites for a long time.
More About The Hubei Province
- Shennongjia Introduction
Shennongjia is a natural medicinal herb garden.
- Wuhan Introduction
Wuhan is a generic name, referring to the three linked mid-Yangtze River citied of Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang.
- Xianling Tomb in Hubei Province
The Xianling Tomb encompasses about 40 hectares.
- Yichang Introduction
There are more than 340 scenic spots at Yichang.