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EASTERN ROYAL TOMBS OF THE QING DYNASTY

EASTERN ROYAL TOMBS OF THE QING DYNASTY


By Leticia N.

TP 201810 Art 01

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TP 201810 Art 02

Located not far from Tianjin are majestic Qing tombs resting for all eternity. These tombs are part of the culture heritage of China and were named World heritage site by UNESCO in 2000. UNESCO described the place as a "masterpiece of human creative genius". But Qing Dong Ling is not only about mausoleums, its special location in the middle of nowhere will cause you to forget about the chaotic city, the traffic jam or the stress of your daily life to embrace nature and breath fresh air. Besides, it does not get many visitors, sometimes you find yourself walking alone.

 

Qing Dong Ling, on being translated to English is 鈥楨astern Royal Tombs of the Qing Dynasty鈥, is situated in Zunhua county level city near Tang Shan in Hebei province. The 80 square kilometers complex is surrounded by mountains and trees. A total of 5 emperors, 15 empresses, 136 imperial concubines, 3 princes and two princesses are buried in altogether 15 mausoleums.

 

Qing Dynasty was the last imperial Dynasty in China. Also known as the Manchu Dynasty, due to its origins, it was founded in 1644. The Manchus were a group of tribes living in what it is today Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces. Its language, culture, political administration etc., were different than the ones established in China by Han dynasties. However the first rulers didn't impose their culture, and rather adapted rapidly by assuming Chinese characteristics without becoming Chinese.

 

Nestled amidst nature, the whole complex follows the basic theory of the Chinese Feng Shui. The location is perfectly set in a valley surrounded by a range of mountains which are part of what is called "the dragon麓s artery". This dragon is not resting but it is opening its arms simulating a hug in a protective attitude towards the Valley. The energy of the place flows through the meridians north to south. Also the components of the soil, vegetation and flow of the water in this particular site are in perfect harmony, making it the best location for the Qing tombs.

 

At it seems, creation of perfect atmosphere for their place of burial, was very important to the leaders of the Qing Dynasty. Distribution of the mausoleums along the place has a specific order according to the rank and seniority of the person buried. The burial system in China reached its peak with the Qing rulers. Their mausoleums inherited, reformed, and improved the system established by the emperors of the Ming dynasty. In Qing Dong Ling, visitors can admire 508 different types of buildings, including mausoleums, ceremonial buildings, temples, memorial towers, etc., that also show the evolution of the burial system during the last Chinese imperial dynasty.

TP 201810 Art cixi

Some of the most relevant rulers of this period are resting in Qing Dong Ling. The first emperor to have been buried here was ShunZhi. His chamber is located in the principle meridian just right at the foot of the central mount ChangRui showing his superior position. The 6km long sacred way leads from the stone archway to his chamber and is divided into three sections. Beautiful and somehow estranged sculptures of all kinds decorate part of the way. The nearly 400 years old building still preserves its original shape. Shunzhi instructed his son for rendering his mausoleum unostentatious and not to keep treasures and luxury items within. Not even the bodies are buried there because, following the Manchu tradition, the corpses were cremated.

 

But maybe the most beautiful mausoleum, from the artistic perspective, is Yu Ling, the tomb of the emperor Qian Long. Some years after he was enthroned the construction of the two burial buildings - one for him and another one for the empress and his 35 concubines - were started. As he had ordered, the burial chamber is 54 meters underground. The decoration of the walls, the carvings with Buddhist motives, dragons, lions and the treasures kept there have an immeasurable artistic and historical value. Many legends surround his tomb. The writings on the walls are spells in an ancient language that nobody has been able to translate till date.

TP 201810 Art qianlong

During the 20th century, three expeditions were sent to open Shunzhi麓s tomb. The first two ended in failure, making the legend of a protecting dragon more alive than ever. However other mausoleums weren't that lucky. The tomb of the empress Cixi or the emperor Qian Long, were ransacked in a beastly fashion. The looters took away every valuable object and left the corpses scattered, making some of them impossible to identify.

 

Qing Dong Ling is still the largest imperial burial site and it is also the best preserved. The original structure of the buildings the colours and the carvings and decorations, the archways and the sacred ways are as they were during the Qing Dynasty. It is an extraordinary place to relax and present a unique opportunity to walk through a part of the history of China.

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