Ming Dynasty Tombs is located at the foot of Tianshou Mountain of Changping County, about 50 kilometers away from Beijing. Covering an area of over 124 square kilometers, Ming Tombs is a cluster of tombs where the thirteen emperors of Ming Dynasty were buried. The site of Ming Tombs was chosen by Emperor Yongle, the third emperor of Ming Dynasty who moved his capital to Beijin and began to build imperial mausoleum in 1409.
The Ming Tombs is in a small basin which is surrounded by hill on three sides. The site of Ming Tombs was strictly chosen according to Fengshui (geomancy) principles. According to these, evil winds descending from the North must be deflected; therefore, an arc-shaped area at the foot of Jundu Mountains north of Beijing was selected.
Every emperor's tomb was constructed at the foot of a hill and every two tombs are at least 500 meters apart. Except Siling Mausoleum locating in the northwest, the rest twelve tombs were constructed at the right or left of Siling Mausoleum. Designers of Ming Tombs attached importance to the harmony and unity of nature and human being.
These thirteen tombs share one way called Sacred Way. The Sacred Way is composed of Stone Arch, Big Red Door, Beilou,etc. Entering into the area, visitors can see Stone Arch constructed with white marble in 1540. The Stone Arch was carved with the delicate images of dragon, lion and cloud. Big Red Door is situated at the due south of the area of Ming Tombs. There once were two stelas carved with words like "officials must get off the horse and walk into". The road behind the Big Red Door is Sacred Way leading to Changling Mausoleum. Changling Mausoleum is a joint burial tomb of Emperor Yongle and his queen. Changling Mausoleum is the first and best preserved tomb compared with the rest ones.
Dingling Mausoleum is the only tomb which has been unearthed. Dingling Mausoleum is the tomb of Emperor Wanli, which was constructed from 1584 to 1590. Occupying an area 180 thousand square meters, Dingling Mausoleum takes the shape of round at the front part and square at the back part of mausoleum. The shape of Dingling Mausoleum symbolizes the Chinese ancient philosophical idea, i.e. the Earth was square and Heaven was round.
The Ming Tombs was inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage Site in August 2003.