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Home Travel in Hubei The Xianling Mausoleum
The Xianling Mausoleum

          The Xianling Mausoleun
The Xianling Mausoleum
(xiǎn líng 显陵) is located in a cypress valley in Songlin Mountain (sōng lín shān 松林山), 7.5 kilometers from Zhongxiang  City (zhōng xiáng shì 钟祥市), Hubei Province (hú běi shěng 湖北省). It used to be called the Imperial Mausoleum (dì líng 帝陵). It occupies an area of 183.15 hectares while the additional defensive walls outside the city walls are 3600 meters in length. It is the largest of the 18 Ming imperial tombs. Built in 1520 and completed 20 years later, the mausoleum belonged to Zhu Youyuan (zhū yòu yuán 朱祐杬), the father of Emperor Shizong (shì zōng 世宗) of the Ming (míng 明) Dynasty (1368-1644), and his mother, surnamed Jiang (jiǎng 蒋). It was the first imperial tomb in China to be inscribed by UNESCO on the World Cultural Heritage List.  

The Xianling MausoleumThe construction of Xianling Mausoleum began in the 14th year in the reign of Zhengde (zhèng dé 正德) (1519), and completed in the 38th year in the reign of Jiajing (jiā jìng 嘉靖) (1559), lasting for 40 years. The Xianling Mausoleum was built in the form of two closed cities with over 30 magnificent building compounds, which are in perfect relation with the surrounding mountains and lakes.

However, most of the buildings were burnt down by the peasant rebellion led by Li Zicheng (lǐ zì chéng 李自成) at the end of the Ming Dynasty. The walls of the Xianling Mausoleum have long since collapsed into glazed tile and brick debris. Stone carvings and statues, magnificent even by imperial standards, have been eroded by wind and rain over centuries. The mausoleum mounds are covered in a luxuriant growth of wild grass. There is no trace of the original wooden structures that once stood on the stout, stone, fire-blackened foundations of its memorial halls. The mausoleum nonetheless retains its ambience of imperial splendor within a beautiful natural setting.

The Xianling MausoleumLaid out in accordance with geomantic (fēng shuǐ 风水) theories, the Xianling Mausoleum sits toward the east, with mountains at its back and facing water. The coffin chamber rests against the left peak of Songlin Mountain, mountain ranges flank both sides of the mausoleum, and Tianzi Hill (tiān zǐ gǎng 天子岗) lies across at the front. Up to the slope of Songlin Mountain there is the Horse Dismounting Stele (xià mǎ bēi 下马碑), gates, pavilion, carved pillars, stone figures, archways, a rivulet and bridge. At the top are the Xiang Palace (xiǎng diàn 享殿)(for offering sacrifices) and Treasure Cities (yíng chéng 茔城) (site of the tombs). The arrangement of these buildings presents that the sense of order was so important in feudal formality.

The Xianling MausoleumThe Xianling Mausoleum is the only imperial mausoleum with two Treasure Cities. The first was built in 1520 in the format for prince, and the second in 1539 after its occupant had been posthumously been named emperor. They are linked by a path forming a dumb-bell shape layout. Each Treasure City accommodates an underground coffin chamber.

The Nine Twists River (jiǔ qǔ hé 九曲河) in the tomb area acts as a drainage facility to prevent the water from flowing from Songlin Mountain to the tomb. All Ming imperial mausoleums have rivers, artificial or natural, for drainage and flood discharge, but the system here is the most outstanding, in terms of completeness and its perfect conformity with fengshui principles. Each of the Treasure Cities has 16 water spouts with protruding dragon-head gargoyles.

The Glazed Screen WallsXianling Mausoleum is the only Ming imperial mausoleum with a divine path of dragon scale(long xíng shén dào 龙形神道), which comprises a path with flagstones along the midline, forming the " dragon's back." pebbles on both sides, called "dragon's scales," and with serrated stone edging.

Another particularity of the Xianling Mausoleum is its inner and outer Mingtang (míng táng 明堂). According to geomantic theories, the inner Mingtang should be of a modest size so that it can conceal wind and collect energy, and the outer one should be large to boost further development. Xianling's Inner Mingtang (nèi míng táng 内明堂) is a square in front of the Ling'en Gate (ling ēn mén 裬恩门), and its Outer Mingtang (wài míng táng 外明堂) sits south of the Old Red Gate (jiù hóng mén 旧红门) on the axis. Such squares are not found in other Ming imperial mausoleums.

The Xianling MausoleunThe glazed screen walls (liú lí yǐng bì 琉璃影壁) on both sides of the Ling'en Gate are also the sole examples in Ming imperial mausoleums. Modeled on timber structures, they are topped with tile eaves, and bear floral designs on the front and two dragons on the back.

The mausoleum is surrounded by red walls with a 3.6-kilometer circumference and a 1,300-meter-long passageway paved with flagstones. On both sides of the passageway is a pair of stone pillars, lions, camels, elephants, unicorns, sitting and standing horses and two pairs of statues of generals and arts ministers. Located at the back are two halls. Although the halls were deserted by the end of the Ming Dynasty, glass flowers, walls with two engraved dragons, stone hall bases and stone-carved rails, which are highly esteemed in the fine arts, still exist.

The Xianling Mausoleum
Location: East of Zhongxiang City, Hubei Province
Tickets: RMB 50
Opening time: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Traffic: You can take No. 6 bus in Zhongxiang to get there directly, or take No. 2 bus at the Railway Station to Local Taxation Bureau, and then change the No. 6 bus. 
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