Changling

ChanglingChangling is the tomb for Emperor Yongle, the third Ming Emperor, and his wife Empress Xu. He ruled for 22 years and made some achievements in the political, military, economic, cultural and diplomatic fields.

Changling is located at the foot of Tianshoushan Mountain and is the first and the largest of the Ming Tombs. The tomb was constructed in 1409 and completed in 1427. It took almost 18 years.

In architectural design, it is square in the front and round in the rear, and is divided into three courtyards.  The main buildings on the central axis are still standing.

Ling’en Hall, or the Hall of Eminent Favour, is grand and magnificent. It is 66.67 metres long from east to west and 19.31 metres wide from north to south. It is supported by 32 gigantic columns ofnanmu9 a kind of cedar. The four columns in the middle are the biggest, 1.17 metres in diametre and 14.3 metres in height.  Each is made of a whole trunk. This kind of valuable timber came from south-west China.  The hall was used by later emperors for offering sacrifices to their ancestors.

According to historical records, 16 imperial concubines were buried alive with the third Ming Emperor, as imperial concubines were not allowed to be buried in the tomb of the Emperor, various tomb grounds known as “pits” were built on either side of Changling. They were called pits because they were vertical shafts without horizontal tunnels.

Human sacrifice was a common practice in the slave owning society. From the Qin and Han dynasties onwards, wooden or earthen human figures were used instead, like the ones in Dingling. The first Ming Emperor restored the old system. Those buried alive were granted honorable titles and their family members were usually assigned official posts.

This practice came to an end when the sixth Ming Emperor made an edict in mid-15th century to abolish the system of human sacrifice.

Stone Tortoise Bearing Inscribed Stele

The stone tablets along the passage to the ancient tombs are usually composed of three parts: the top, the body and the base. The one erected in front of the tomb is imposing. The crown of the tablet is perfectly round, free from any edges and corners and decorated with a pair of coiling dragons. On the top of the tablet is chiselled a hole, through which was slung a rope holding a coffin when it was being lowered into the grave (a practice in ancient times in which normally two tablets were used). The base of the tablet is the form of a tortoise with its head lifted high.  This tortoise is said to be the ninth son of the dragon, named bixie. Strong and powerful, it could carry heavy loads over long distances. This tortoise was first made by Emperor Yu, reputed founder of the Xia Dynasty (21st-16th century BC) to bear on its back a stone tablet with inscriptions in praise of his merits and achievements in harnessing the rivers to prevent floods. This practice was handed down from generation to generation.

Golf Course

This is the first golf course in Beijing. It was built and put into operation in 1986. It was founded by the Japan Golf Promotion Inc. and is now run jointly with Changping’s Foreign Trade Company.

The course covers an area of one million square metres. It is part of the city’s plans to turn the area into a modern tourist resort. It should partially appease those who have complained about a shortage of amusement centres in the capital.

The 18-hole course cost about 30 million yuan and was used for the Asian Games in 1990.

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