Sacred Way of the Ming Tombs
This Sacred Way starts with two hexagonal columns called Wang Zhu on either side, they are
carved with a cloud design…
At the southern end of the mausoleum area is a large memorial archway called pailou. Built in
1540, it is now a monumental construction, built of white marble with five
arches. Six rectangular pillars support it with beautiful bas-relief carvings
( lions, dragons, lotus flowers). It is 14 meters high and 28.86 meters wide.
One kilometer north of the
archway is the main gate of the mausoleum area- the main gate of the palace
called the Great Red Gate. Two tablets used to be placed on both sides of the
gate which said:" Dignitaries, officials and other persons arriving here must
dismount from their horses."
The central entrance was reserved for the body of the dead emperor alone; the
living emperor had to use the left entrance when he came to pay homage to
their ancestors. One more kilometer north of the main gate of the palace is a
stele pavilion, on the back of the stele marble was engraved resume of Zhu Di,
the emperor of Chenzu of the Ming Dynasty and on the upper front was engraved
characters. " Stele of Divine Merit and Sacred Virtue, Changling, Great Ming."
The stele is carried on a marble tortoise, which, according to Chinese Legend,
is the Son of Dragon, which the emperor called himself.
Around the Pavilion are four Ornamental Pillars built with the same mythical beast on the tops, which face
either inward or outward, which means hoping the emperor not to cling to the
palace or not to forget to return to the Palace to handle state affairs.
Going inward from the stele Pavilion is the 3.5 km long Sacred Way, which means the road leading to
Heaven. The Emperor, known as the Son of Heaven went through the sacred road
to the sacrificial altar to converse Heaven during his reign, naturally, after
his death, he would also go through the Sacred Way back to heaven.
Alongside the Sacred Way are 18 pairs of marble figures lined up in antithesis, these marble figures, sculptured from
whole stones, were erected over 500 years ago, the traditional was of putting
over marble figures as guard of honor in front of the mausoleum began in the
Han Dynasty which signified the dignity of the emperor, symbolizing the good
fortune and warding off evil influence.
This Sacred Way starts with two hexagonal columns
called Wang Zhu on either side, they are carved with a cloud design. Their
tops are shaped like a rounded cylinder.
Then follow, one on each side, lions, xie zhi ( a mythical beast of feline family, with a mane and a
horn on its head), camels, elephants, qi lin ( a kind of imaginary animal with
a scaly body, a cow's tail, deer's hooves and , horns on its head), horses.
All these six animals are two kneeling, two standing, 12 animals on each side
and 24 animals in all. They were supposed to change guards at midnight.
A slight turn of the Sacred Way leads to
the human statues. Even this slight turn is in conformity with the principle
of feng shui ( winds of heaven and the waters of earth ). On each side stand
two generals, two civil officials and two " retired" government officials; 6
on each side, and 12 in all. They are larger-than-life-size human statues.
The avenue of stone animals and statues ends at Ling Xing Gate, better known as the Dragon and
Phoenix Gate. But the Sacred Way goes on beyond the Dragon and Phoenix Gate towards the chief tomb- Changling,
emperor Yongle's tomb.
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