Beijing: the Ming Dynasty Tombs (Post #7).

Today’s post is about the Ming Dynasty Tombs, a one day adventure to the outskirts of Beijing County. The Ming Dynasty Tombs were built in the 15th century and contains 13 different tombs within driving distance of each other. A Sacred Way serves as the entrance to each of the tombs. We visited the Dingling tomb which is the only one that’s been excavated.

We woke up early in the morning, ate breakfast, and took the subway to the very last stop to the outer limits of the city. The group comprised of John, Kaitlyn, Tara, Connor, Vincent and I. Because the subway line was so far out of the city, it doesn’t show up on tourist maps – Kaitlyn dubbed it the secret line.

The group for the day eating breakfast.

After we got off the subway, we took Bus 67 to the Ming Dynasty Tombs Sacred Way. Tickets were 35¥ ($5.55) for students, half off from the regular price. Sacred Way was a walkway that served as the entrance to the other tombs. The entrance was paved and well maintained, with numerous near-identical sculptures standing on opposite sides of the road.

The entrance of the Sacred Way.

Sacred Way. The sculptures on opposite sides have one small difference that people can look for.

It felt strange being here. Even though we were out in the suburbs/rural area of Beijing, the smog still encompassed the atmosphere. Therefore, everything looked foggy which made everything appear more mysterious.

The entire walkway was just over one mile in length, but the road appeared infinite until we reached the end. It was there that we found out that it wasn’t possible to reach the tombs by foot; everyone drove or took the bus there. I asked a local which tomb he recommended seeing, and he said that he had only visited Dingling tomb before. I chose that at random, and we took the bus there.

What the layout of the tombs looks like. The map dimensions needs to be exaggerated more, as none of us thought that we needed additional transportation to visit the sights.

Traffic was insane. We took this trip on the weekend of the Dragon Boat Festivals 端午節, a national Chinese holiday. Everyone had the weekend off and was traveling. I witnessed the most orderly-chaotic driving in my life, as every car and bus tailed within centimeters of others. Nobody wanted to yield, and everyone was equally aggressive.

Just a glimpse of the traffic. Note the number of lanes (2) with the number of cars packed in (clearly more than 2).

After we arrived at Dingling 定陵 tomb, we purchased the ticket for 35¥ once again, half off from the normal price. The layout of the tomb comprised of a large courtyard which contained steps that led up to a large monastery. Beyond the monastery was the underground tomb, but there were large walls that formed a circular perimeter around the tomb.

There was a fight between two large parties that broke out, and I witnessed vicious girls pushing each other. One guy kicked an opposing girl hard in the stomach, and people were pushing back and forth. I alerted the entrance workers and we called out to two patrolling police officers. They casually walked up to the crowd who immediately dispersed – I was surprised at how nonchalant they were, whereas police officers in the US would have reacted very swiftly and perhaps aggressively.

We chose to walk around the perimeter of the tomb first. The wall we walked on looked like my perception of the Great Wall of China. Beyond the walls were the forest and overgrowth, half blotted out by the “fog” (air pollution). This was the most amazing sight I’d seen for the day. Once again, the culmination of the “fog” and the green backdrop made everything seem surreal. Moreover, a lookout tower for oncoming fires in the dry season stood atop a mountain peak – it added to the tranquil feeling.

Beyond the outer walls, mountains on top of mountains stood magnificently in the background.

The lookout tower. We first thought it was part of the tombs. As I later inquired, it  is used in the dry season to watch for fires.

After patrolling the perimeter of the tomb, we ventured underground into the tomb itself. It was amazing to stand in an intact tomb that had survived over 500 years of wear and tear. The walls appeared perfectly intact and we all witnessed the high ceilings, wide walls, and large gates that ancient engineers had constructed.

The tomb consisted of four separate chambers that showcased the emperor’s and empress’ caskets and thrones. The doors that opened up to the tomb were gigantic and looked to be made of jade. Lots of money laid atop the thrones and caskets as people paid homage to the emperor’s reign.

The emperor’s and empress’ caskets. They were ransacked during the Cultural Revolution. These red boxes protect the insides.

It was an amazing day. It was our first time venturing out of the city, and the adventure was well worth it. Not one part of the day superseded the rest – from taking the secret subway, to riding in a jam packed bus, to the Sacred Way, to witnessing insane Beijing Traffic, to seeing the Dingling tombs, all were equally impressive and count as an adventure in and of itself.

Stay tuned for the next post: Olympic Park.

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