Day By Day

Monday, June 06, 2011

Return to China -- Part 6, The Ming Tombs

Our next stop in Beijing was a visit to the Tombs of the Ming Emperors [well, actually, only one of the tombs, most have not been excavated and restored and so are not accessible to tourists]. This is the entrance to the tomb of Zhu Di [pronounced "Judy"], the third Ming emperor, and in the minds of many the greatest emperor of the dynasty. As emperor he took the title "Yongle" [perpetual happiness].

Here's a shot from inside the Changling Exhibition Hall out onto the courtyard surrounding it.

And here's a shot of the interior. Just look at the size of those wooden pillars! Each is carved from a single tree.

Here's what the crowd in the last shot was looking at -- a statue of Yongle himself. Impressive no?

The items on display have changed since my last visit two years ago. Then there were several cases of swords, pikes, bows and other such implements of war. Now they have been replaced with less bellicose exhibits like this. It's a replica of the flagship of the fleet Yongle sent under the command of Zheng He to explore the Indian Ocean. There were seven voyages of exploration under emperor Yongle and they reached as far away as the Red Sea and Somalia. The last of these voyages ended in 1433, eighteen years before Columbus was born. The Ming emperors did not follow up on Zheng He's discoveries, and it is fascinating to think how world history might have been changed if a Chinese fleet had rounded the Cape of Good Hope and appeared in the Atlantic a generation before the Portuguese launched Europe's "Age of Discovery".

Taking our leave of Yongle we passed through the courtyard and walked down the long processional path [the "Sacred Way"] connecting the tombs with the outside world.

The Sacred Way is lined with statues of soldiers, administrators, and animals whose purpose was to serve the emperors in the afterlife. 

After walking for about a kilometer through beautiful parkland we arrived at a gate that serves as the entrance to the Sacred Way and the Ming tombs complex. There we viewed a strange statue.

Our guide insisted that it was a dragon, but it sure looks like a tortoise to me.

Then it was back on the bus and a short trip to yet another shopping opportunity.

Pearls this time.

No comments: