A series of temple-like structures and burial mounds, the Ming Tombs contain the remains of 13 of the 16 emperors who ruled China during the Ming Dynasty (1368 to 1644). Visitors come from all over to see the imperial grandeur of this UNESCO World Heritage site and learn about the cultural importance of ancestor worship.
Of the 13 tombs, three are open to the public and accessible via a statue-lined path called the Sacred Way, where the carvings of mythical animals and legendary figures are believed to ward off evil spirits. The Ming Tombs Museum sits just behind the ticket office and offers a short introduction to each of the 13 entombed emperors. Due to their proximity to portions of the Great Wall of China, the Ming Tombs are often included as a stop on tours to the Great Wall at Badaling, Mutianyu, or even Juyongguan.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Ming Tombs are a must-see for history buffs.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to walk; the site is vast and spread out.
- The above-ground tourist routes at the Ming Tombs are wheelchair accessible.
- Small-group and private tours to the Ming Tombs and Great Wall can last upwards of eight hours.
How to Get There
The Ming Tombs are located about 30 miles (50 kilometers) northwest of Beijing. To arrive by public transit, take bus 919 from De Sheng Men Xi station, get off at Chang Ping Xi Guan station, and take bus 314 to the Dingling Tomb or Changling Tomb station.
When to Get There
As one of Beijing’s most popular tourist sites, the Ming Tombs can get quite crowded during the summer tourist season and Chinese public holidays. In summer, arrive first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon to beat the crowds. For the best weather and manageable crowds, plan to visit on a spring or autumn weekday.
Which Tombs to Visit
Of the three tombs open to the public, the Changling tomb built for Emperor Yongle is the largest and best preserved. It’s been described as a Forbidden City in miniature. The Dingling tomb of Emperor Zhu Yijun is most famous for its Underground Palace, where his original thrones still stand. Emperor Longqing’s Zhaoling tomb is the smallest and least visited tomb, notable for its above-ground architecture.