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The Eastern Qing Mausoleums

 the Eastern Qing Mausoleums

The Eastern Qing Mausoleums (qīng dōng líng 清东陵), located 125 kilometers northwest of Beijing, are among the finest and largest extant Mausoleum complexes in China. Like the Western Qing Mausoleums (qīng xī líng 清西陵) are the sacred burial grounds of Qing emperors, empresses and imperial concubines. Situated to the west of Malanyu (mǎ lán yù 马兰峪) Village in Zunhua (zūn huà 遵化) City of Tangshan (táng shān 唐山), the entire complex covers an area of 2,500 square kilometers. The construction of the tombs was begun in the second year of the reign of Emperor Kangxi (kāng xī 康熙: 1663). The main Mausoleums include those of the following emperors, here listed with their reign periods: Shunzhi (shùn zhì 顺治: 1644-1661), Kangxi (1662-1722), Qianlong (qián lóng 乾隆: 1736-1796), Xianfeng (xián fēng 咸丰: 1851-1861), Tongzhi (tóng zhì 同治: 1862-1875), and Empress Dowager Cixi (cí xǐ 慈禧: died 1908). In addition, four Mausoleums containing the remains of 136 imperial concubines and one Mausoleum for princesses are also located here.

the Great Red Gate The Jinxing Mountain (jīn xīng shān 金星山), which resembles a gigantic inverted bell, serves as a natural barrier for the area to the south. From the top of this mountain, one can look north across the valley of the tombs to the tall central peak of Changrui Mountain (chāng ruì shān 昌瑞山) and follow its lesser ridges as they slope down gradually to the east and west. A large white marble archway marks the main entrance to the Eastern Qing Mausoleums. Similar in design to traditional wooden memorial archway, its rectangular panels are carved with swirling patterns and other geometrical designs. Paired lions and dragons decorate the bases of the standing columns.
BixiAfter passing through the marble archway, one comes to the Great Red Gate (dà hóng mén 大红门), which serves as the formal front gate of the entire Mausoleum complex. There is a stela tower (míng lóu 明楼) containing a large stone tablet mounted on the back of a tortoise-like creature known as a Bixi (bì xì 赑屃), and this tablet, decorated at its top with carved dragon and bat designs. Dragons symbolizing the emperor, and bats (fú 蝠) as a pun on "good fortune" is inscribed with the "sacred virtues and merits" of Emperor Shunzhi who is buried here. Heading north after passing a small hill, which acts as a natural protective screen, one comes to a road lined with 18 pairs of stone figures and animals. Somewhat smaller than their counterparts at the Ming Tombs (shí sān líng 十三陵), 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 (lóng fèng mén 龙凤门) and across a seven-arch marble bridge 100 meters long. The longest and finest of nearly 100 arched bridges in the Mausoleum complex, it is called the Five-Tone Bridge (wǔ yīn qiáo 五音桥) after a peculiar acoustical phenomenon-by tapping gently on any one of the more than 110 panels between the bridge balustrades, the five tones of the pentatonic scale can be heard.

     Xiaoling

On the other side of the bridge is the Gate of Eminent Favor (lóng ēn mén 隆恩门), the entrance to Emperor Shunzhi's Xiaoling (xiào líng 孝陵). At this point, one has covered a total distance of five kilometers from the White Marble Archway (shí pái fāng 石牌坊) introduced above. Just north of the Gate of Eminent Favor is the Hall of Eminent Favor (lóng ēn diàn 隆恩殿). This rectangular building rests on a marble platform, which extends to form a terrace in front of the hall, and is surrounded for storing ancestral tablets and carrying out sacrifices to the ancestors. A stela tower stands directly behind the hall. The stela it contains is painted over with cinnabar lacquer and inscribed in Han (hàn zú 汉族), Manchu (mǎn zú 满族) and the White Marble ArchwayMongol (měng gǔ zú 蒙古族) scripts with the words "Tomb of Emperor Shunzhi". The stela tower is the tallest structure in the entire Mausoleum complex and from here one may obtain a panoramic view of the entire area. The underground tomb of Emperor Shunzhi, who reigned as the first emperor of the Qing Dynasty, has not yet been excavated.
Of all the tombs, Xiaoling is the biggest and most elaborate, standing as the focal point of the entire structure. The grandeur of this tomb may be attributed to its having been the first sepulcher constructed for a member of the royal family of the Qing Dynasty.

     Yuling

The mausoleums of Emperor Qianlong, called the Yuling (yù líng 裕陵), and Empress Dowager Cixi, called the Dingdongling (dìng dōng líng 定东陵), have been renovated and are 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), longer than the other nine Qing emperors and for three years served as regent for his son, Emperor Jiaqing (jiā qìng 嘉庆). In 1743, after reigning for eight years, Qianlong began directing the construction of his mausoleum at a total cost of 1.8 million taels (liǎng 两) of silver. The underground palace occupies an area of 327 square meters and consists of three arched chambers. Although it is smaller than the Dingling (dìng líng 定陵) underground palace at the Ming Tombs, the Yuling the Four Heavenly KingsMausoleum houses finer stone engravings and sculptures. A detailed relief of the standing Goddess of Mercy (guān yīn 观音) is carved into each of the eight leaves of the four double doors. Behind the doors are meticulous carvings of the Four Heavenly Kings (sì dà tiān wáng 四大天王) in sitting positions, each holding its own characteristic Buddhist icon: pipa (pí pá 琵琶), sword, banner and pagoda. Other bas-reliefs cover the dome and the walls of the mausoleum: the Buddhas of the Five Directions (wǔ fāng fó 五方佛), 24 miscellaneous Buddhas (èr shí sì fó 二十四佛), as well as lotuses and Buddhist scriptures in Sanskirt (fàn wén 梵文) and Tibetan (zàng wén 藏文). These carvings in stone are the finest examples of this genre to be discovered in any tomb to date.

     Dingdongling 

The Dingdongling is located approximately one kilometer west of the Yuling. Entombed here are the two wives of Emperor Xianfeng: the Eastern Empress Dowager Ci'an (cí ān 慈安) and the notorious Western Empress Dowager Cixi. The tombs were constructed simultaneously and in the same style. However, Cixi was not satisfied with her "accommodations" and in 1895 her Hall of Eminent Favor and its Eastern and Western Wings (dōng xī pèi diàn 东西配殿) were torn down. The mausoleum rebuilt for her at the cost of 4,590 taels of gold is even more spectacular and extravagant than either the tomb of the Eastern Empress Dowager or that of Emperor Qianlong.
carvingsCixi's Hall of Eminent Favor was rebuilt entirely of phoebe wood (huáng huā lí mù 黄花梨木) 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. This is perhaps compensated for by 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: 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 (fú 福), another of satin embroidered with the word shou (shòu 寿) and a dragon robe.

     Zhaoxiling

The Zhaoxiling (zhāo xī líng 昭西陵) stands alone outside the Great Red Gate. Though Empress Dowager Xiaozhuang (xiào zhuāng huáng tài hòu 孝庄皇太后), buried here in 1687, was a mere concubine, she received the title Empress Dowager because she gave birth to the child who later became Emperor Shunzhi. According to the Qing dynastic history, Xiaozhuang's political influence in the early Qing period also resulted in the selection of her eight-year-old grandson as heir to the throne some 20 years later. When in1662 this youngest ascended the dragon throne as Emperor Kangxi, Xiaozhuang's title was raised to that of Grand Empress Dowager (tài huáng tài hòu 太皇太后).

Fragrant ConcubineThirty-six burial mounds for the concubines of Emperor Qianlong are located in the mausoleum area. The first tomb mound in the second row of tombs to the east of the stela tower is that of Concubine Rong (róng fēi 容妃), who was buried here in 1788. Better known as the"Fragrant Concubine (xiāng fēi 香妃)" she was, as the legend goes, the daughter of a prince from Central Asia. Her burial garments and a fragment of colored satin inscribed in an indecipherable language were found in the tomb. Another magnificent tomb reputed to belong to the same princess was found at Kashi (kā shí 喀什) in the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region (xīn jiāng wéi wú ěr zì zhì qū 新疆维吾尔自治区). It contains a number of burial relics and articles of clothing.

                                           (click to check the map)

Ticket: RMB 120
Opening hours: 8:00-17:00
Tel: 0315-6945471

Tips:
1. The best season to visit the Eastern Qing Mausoleums is in late summer and early autumn.
2. This is an overnight trip, and you can stay in the local guest house run by the peasants. There were a few 3 star hotels in the county, mostly with Chinese entertainment facilities such as large restaurants and Karaoke rooms.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 April 2010 17:09
 

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