Beiling Park, the largest of its kind in Shenyang, is also the home to one of the most famous mausoleums of the country: the Zhaoling tomb. It is the place where the founder of the Qing dynasty(1644-1911) Huang Taiji and his queen Xiaoduanwen Bo'erjijite rest in peace.
The mausoleum, which is spread over an area of 4,500,000 sq.m, is usually called Beiling which means North Tomb because of its location to the north of the Shenyang City. It is also the most magnificent and well-preserved out of the three famous tombs, the other two being the Fuling Tomb in Shenyang and the Yongling Tomb in Xinbin
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The Zhaoling Tomb is a place where the past does not only stand still, but it comes alive in the decorated archways, ornamental columns, the numerous stone animals and the cloud pillars. If you have a heart that loses itself to the wonders of history, Zhaoling Tomb is for you. With splendid pavilions and palaces this place promises much and lives up to every bit of it. The yellow tiles, the red walls and the green trees conjure up something that is much more than a relic of the days gone by. Together they create such a synchronized orchestra that strikes a chord at the very core of the heart.
Structurally, the Zhaoling Tomb can be divided into three parts from south to north- the Horse Dismounting Tablet, the Red Gate and the Square City. Out of these, the first two parts are used for worship and festivities and the third part is the place where the emperor and his queen are joined together in eternal slumber.
It took eight long years to complete this mausoleum which was started in 1643 and has been much renovated and expanded since liberation. The site has been listed in the second group of Key Cultural Relics Units under State Protection by the State Council in March, 1982. Back in history, the area surrounding the tomb was a forbidden land for the ordinary people. Only a few chosen ones had the privilege to enter this area reserved for imperial use only. However, in 1928 the gate to this secluded area was opened to the public and now constitutes Shenyang's Beiling Park.
A 1.2 km long ‘sacred way’ stretches from the park gate to the tomb buildings. This way again has three different paths. The one to the left was meant for the ruling emperor, the one on the right was for the imperial staff and officials and the path located centrally was reserved either for the deities or for those bearing offerings. Halfway down the central imperial park surrounded by forest and lakes, stands a statue of Huang Taiji. The path then continues through a bridge to a series of gates that signify the entrance to the inner tomb area. Further along the route, the royal path leads to the inner tomb structures. Two stone pillars officially mark its beginning. Four pairs of stone animals stand on either side of the route.
These include two xiezhi (mythical beasts that could tell good from evil and is representative of the emperor’s justice), two qilin (representing peace and kindness), two white horses, and two camels. The path beyond this is blocked by a large steele which narrates the deeds of the Emperor. This is followed by four buildings which were used by the emperor or his staff while preparing themselves or their offerings in order to honor the past emperor. After this comes the walled area of the main temple complex within which ceremonies worshipping the emperor were conducted. A final gate leads from this complex to the wall of the Emperor’s tomb.
The main structure of the mausoleum is made up of the Square City, the Crescent City, the Ming Pavilion and the Treasure Top. Out of these, the Longen Hall in Square City is the most astounding. Gold ores cover its floor and radiates in the bright sunlight. The Ming Pavilion is the tallest building in the park. And, the Underground Palace, just under the Treasure Top, is the actual tomb of the emperor and his empress.
The Zhaoling Tomb has been adored worldwide for its architectural and historical significance. But another distinctive feature of the place are the pine trees that stretch for miles. There are more than 2000 such trees, most of which dates back to more than 300 years!