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Ming Tombs in Beijing

Explore the famous Tombs of the Ming Dynasty, one of the best-preserved Imperial Chinese burial complexes

Ming Tombs
Ming Tombs
Ming Tombs
Ming Tombs

Ming Tombs are the world's largest existing mausoleum complex with the largest total number of emperors buried and mausoleums. Over the course of 235 years from the first burial in 1409 until the last one in 1644, 13 imperial tombs of the Ming Dynasty had been built. In total, the tombs house 13 emperors, 23 empresses, two princes, more than 30 imperial concubines, and one eunuch. The place has high historical and cultural value and was listed as the world heritage site by UNESCO in 2003.

People in the Ming Dynasty believed the death was the end of life. After death, the soul would still exist and need basic life essentials such as food and sleep. As the tomb owner was royal, the ground buildings of Ming Tombs were designed after the Forbidden City imperial palace which shows the power and superiority of the emperor. Based on the traditional Chinese geomantic theory known as Fengshui, both the location choice and the design of Ming Tombs focus on the harmony of artificial architecture and natural sceneries.

Though the imperial tombs had been constructed since the Warring States Period, the Ming Tombs complex got its supreme status as it shows the integrity of Chinese imperial tombs. Every emperor got his independent grave while a straight sacred way crosses the whole monument area. The shared stone archways, stone engraving groups, and the orderly burial methods of the various mausoleums connected the tombs as a whole. Spots that now are open for visiting are three out of 13 mausoleums—Dingling, Changling, Zhaoling—and the Sacred Way.

From March to May, the flowers around the tombs bloom and the grass and trees are green, which makes the monuments more pleasant for hiking. The weather from September to October in Beijing is also comfortable for outdoor tourist activities. Therefore, plan a visit to the Ming Tombs from March to May and September to October when you can both avoid extreme cold or hot weather in Beijing and see the tomb complex at its best. Keep in mind that it's better to avoid weekends and national holidays when domestic tourists flock to the area. Some of the busiest time periods are May Day holidays and Golden Week in early October. You may visit the Ming Tombs all year round, but summers tend to be too hot for outdoor exploration and winters are too chilly. The low season from November to March offers lower ticket prices, so it's another aspect to consider.

Practical info

What distinguishes the Ming Tombs from other tombs?

The Ming Tombs is one of the world's largest mausoleum complexes and one of the best-preserved Imperial Chinese burial sites. Within the complex lie the burial grounds of 13 Chinese emperors, 23 empresses, two princes, more than 30 imperial concubines, and one eunuch, covering an area of over 120 square kilometers. The site is a testament to the burial traditions and beliefs of the Chinese people during the Ming Dynasty. Show more

What is the meaning behind the tombs’ design?

The Ming Tombs were designed according to traditional Chinese geomantic theory, known as Fengshui. The architecture emphasizes harmony between artificial structures and natural surroundings. The ground buildings were modeled prominently after those of the Forbidden City imperial palace, signaling the power and superiority of the emperor. The area is unified by shared stone archways, orderly burial methods, and engravings. Visitors should also check out the unique design of the Sacred Way leading to the tombs. Show more

When is the most favorable time to visit the Ming tombs?

If you plan a visit to the Ming Tombs, the ideal time to go is March to May or September to October. These months bring mild and pleasant weather with flowers blooming throughout the complex. This also lets visitors avoid the scorching heat of summer and the cold of winter. The peak season is during weekends and national holidays, with the lowest ticket prices during the low season in November through March. Show more

What are the busiest times for the Ming Tombs?

Travelers should steer clear of visiting the Ming Tombs area during weekends and major national holidays. May Day holidays and Golden Week (first week of October) are two busiest times. For those looking to avoid crowds, the site is less crowded from November to March. Nevertheless, tourists visiting around March to May or September to October can enjoy pleasant temperatures and colorful foliage. Show more

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Last updated: by Eleonora Provozin