Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum - The Tomb of the Hongwu Emperor (Zhu Yuanzhang) of the Ming Dynasty
The Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum (Chinese: 明孝陵) is the tomb of the Hongwu Emperor of the Ming Dynasty. It lies at the northern foot of Purple Mountain (Chinese: 紫金山; literally "Purple-Golden Mountain") in Nanjing, China. Legend says that in order to prevent robbery of the tomb, 13 identical processions of funeral troops started from 13 city gates to obscure the real burying site.
The construction of the mausoleum began during the Ming Dynasty in 1381 and ended in 1405, with a huge expenditure of resources involving 100,000 laborers. The original wall of the mausoleum was more than 22.5 kilometers long. The mausoleum was built under heavy guard of 5,000 military troops.
The sacred way started from Sifangcheng (Rectangular city) which was a pavilion where a splendid carved stone stele in the memory of the Hongwu Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang was erected, on which a hymn by his fourth son was inscribed. The top of the pavilion no longer exists. In the middle of the 1800-meter-long winding sacred way, 6 kinds and 12 pairs of animals guard the tomb. Beyond them is a pair of decorative columns called huabiao in Chinese. Four pairs of ministers and generals have been standing there for centuries to accompany His Majesty beneath.
On an inscribed stone tablet outside of the gate of the mausoleum, an official notification of the local government in the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) is ordered to protect the tomb. Inside the gate, there is a pavilion in which 5 steles stand. The one in the middle was inscribed with 4 Chinese characters, which were written by the Emperor Kangxi on his third inspection tour. Behind the pavilion, there used to be other annexes; however most of them have collapsed into relics from which the original splendor can still be traced. The emperor and his queen were buried in a clay vault, 400 meters in diameter. On a stone wall surrounding the vault, 7 Chinese characters were inscribed, identifying the mausoleum of Emperor Ming Taizu (respected title of Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang). The mountain to the south of the tomb is the mausoleum of Sun Quan, King of the Kingdom of Wu in the Three Kingdoms period (220-265). The existence of this tomb is the reason why the Sacred Way is not straight.
In 2003, along with the Ming Dynasty Tombs north of Beijing, the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum of Nanjing was inscribed by UNESCO as part of the World Heritage Sites "Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties".