The Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum is the eternal resting place of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang of the Ming Dynasty. It is one of the largest mausoleums in existence. Construction of the mausoleum began in 1383 and boasts an over 600-year history.
The mausoleum consists of two parts; the front and rear, both surrounded by a 45-kilometer stonewall. The mausoleum was heavily constructed and fortified. The front begins from the horse dismounting area commonly used during its inception, and ends at the Sifangcheng (Rectangular City). Visitors can study the stone animals guarding the tomb, a pair of decorative columns, or the couples of ministers and generals that have stood there for centuries to accompany their Majesty along his sacred voyage. The rear includes a portal, a stele inscribed with 4 Chinese characters written by Emperor Kangxi during his third inspection tour, Xiaoling Hall, and Bao City. Emperor Zhu and his queen were buried beneath Bao City.
The sacred way, the path used by the dead to make their sacred voyage, begins at the Sifangcheng. The Sifangcheng is a pavilion where a splendid carved stone stele sits. The stele was inscribed by Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang’s fourth son, Zhu Di, to praise the emperor’s contributions to the city. The stele is 8.78 meters high with 2746 words inscribed on its surface. Although the pavilion was at one time enclosed, the roof has since been removed, and only the walls are left.
The red portal of the mausoleum lies in the north and faces the south, the design influenced by ancient Chinese beliefs and culture. The name of the tomb, “Mingxiao Ling”, is printed on the head of the gate. Two pavilions behind it were previously destroyed, but it easy to imagine their grandeur and sophistication simply by witnessing the scale of the relics left behind.