Introducing the Changling Tomb

Changling is located at the foot of Heavenly Longevity Hill. It is the tomb for the 3rd Ming Emperor Zhudi and his wife Empress Xu. Changling is the first, largest and also the best-preserved tomb of the 13 Ming Tombs. Construction of it started from 1409. It took 18 years and was completed in 1427. The layout of Changling just followed the example of Xiaoling in Nanjing, the tomb for the first Ming Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang. Structures along the central axis are: the Front Gate to the tomb, the Gate of Eminent Favor, the Hall of Eminent Favor, the Dragon and Phoenix Gate, Soul Tower and the wall-encircled Earth Mound. The design of Changling is square in the front and round at the back, reflecting the ancient Chinese belief that Heaven is round and the Earth is square. The Gate of Eminent Favor and the Hall of Eminent Favor of Changling on the central axis are still standing today. That is why Changling is considered to be the best-preserved tomb of the 13 Ming Tombs.

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Stele Pavilion

There is a stone stele housed inside the Stele Pavilion which is carried by a huge mythical animal called “Bixi”, one of the nine sons of the dragon who is good at carrying heavy things. The stone stele was erected in 1536 by Ming Emperor Jiajing. Originally, there were no inscriptions on it. The inscriptions we see today on three sides were written by three Qing Emperors. They tell that Emperor Shunzhi inscribed an order to protect the Ming Tombs; Emperor Qianlong and Jiaqing wrote two poems to pay their homage to the Ming Tombs.

Divine Burner

The two yellow glazed pottery burners are called Divine Burner. They were used for burning the prayer paper, paper-made gold and silver ingots after the sacrificial ceremony.

Hall of Eminent Favor

The Hall of Eminent Favor is also called “Sacrificial Hall” where the sacrificial ceremonies were held by the succeeding emperors for their ancestors. In the center of the hall, there used to be a memorial tablet with the dead emperor’s name on it. Now, a bronze statue of Emperor Zhudi is placed there instead. The Hall of Eminent Favor is the largest Nan wood building in China. It is supported by 60 wooden columns made of precious Nan wood. Nan wood is a special kind of wood coming from the mountains in the southern part of China. It is said that it could dispel mosquitoes in summer. Right now, the Hall of Eminent Favor is used as an exhibition hall for the historical relics unearthed from Dingling, the tomb for the 13th Ming Emperor Wanli.

Soul Tower

The Soul Tower is the symbol of each Ming Tomb. A plaque hanging above the tower bears two Chinese characters “Changling”, the name of the tomb which means the Tomb of Eternity. Inside of the tower, there is a stone tablet inscribed with the following words: “Tomb of Emperor Wen, Cheng Zu of Great Ming”. Wen is the posthumous title and Cheng Zu is the shrine title.

Earth Mound

Behind the Soul Tower is the Earth Mound, more than 1,000 meters in circumference. It is the place where Emperor Zhudi and Empress Xu were buried. Exactly said, there were buried in an underground palace under the Earth Mound. Among the 13 Ming Tombs, the underground palace in Dingling, the tomb for the 13th Ming Emperor Wanli, is the only one that has been excavated so far. And the Chinese Government decided not to excavate any other underground palace of any imperial tombs except for rescue purpose.

Additional Information

Emperor Zhu Yuanzhang

Zhu Yuanzhang is the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644). After he established the Ming Dynasty, he moved the capital of China from Beijing to Nanjing. Zhu Yuanzhang was born in 1328 and died in 1398. He ruled China for 31 years (1368-1398). He came from a poor peasant family. In 1345, both his parents and brother died of serious natural calamities within half a year when he was 17 years old. In order to survive, he went to a temple where he shaved his head and became a Buddhist monk. He went out three years begging for alms in Henan province, Anhui province and the southern part of China. In 1348, Zhu Yuanzhang came back the temple and joined Red Turban Peasant Army in 1352, fighting against the Yuan rulers (Mongols). Finally, he became the chief leader in the army and in 1368 established the Ming Dynasty with Nanjing as the capital. In 1398, after his 31 years on the throne, Zhu Yuanzhang died at the age of 71 and was buried in the tomb of Xiaoling, eastern suburbs of Nanjing, Jiangsu Province.

Emperor Zhudi

Emperor Zhudi (Reign title Yongle) is probably the most important historical figure to Beijing. The layout of present Beijing is in a way founded during his reign. Zhudi was the 3rd Ming emperor and the fourth son of the first Ming Emperor Zhuyuanzhang. He was born in 1360 and died in 1424 at the age of 65 on his way back Beijing after the 5th expedition to Mongolia. According to the Chinese hereditary system in the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), only the eldest son is the legitimate successor to the throne. But unfortunately, the eldest son of the first Ming emperor, Zhubiao, died in 1392, six years earlier than his father. So the emperor chose his first grandson, Zhu Yunwen, as the crown prince. In 1398, the 21 year old grandson succeeded the throne after the death of his grandfather and became the 2nd Ming emperor, with the reign title Jianwen. At that time, he was assisted by several court officials in governing the county. In order to centralize power and consolidate his reign, he adopted the suggestion of his court officials to weaken the power of the 23 regional garrison commanders who were actually his uncles, sons of the first Ming emperor. But these measures met with strong resistance from his uncle Zhudi, who was assigned to guard Beijing with 100,000 elite soldiers. He was mad when he heard that his power would be reduced and saw this as a good opportunity to take action in advance. In 1399, with the excuse of wiping out traitors around the emperor, Zhudi, together with his 100,000 soldiers marched to Nanjing and started the civil war, the capital of China at that time. The war lasted for three years. Finally, Zhudi usurped the power from his nephew and became the 3rd Ming emperor with the reign title Yongle. The second Ming emperor Jianwen disappeared during the civil war and was nowhere to find. Some people said that he died in a big fire; another saying is that he had escaped to a temple and became a Buddhist monk. Anyway, his whereabouts remains a myth till now. After Zhudi ascended the throne in Nanjing, the first thing he did was to slaughter all the people who supported his nephew. Since he was from Beijing and there were more supporters, he decided to build the Forbidden City from 1406 and moved the capital of China from Nanjing to Beijing the following year after the Forbidden City was completed in 1420. Ironically, he only stayed in the Forbidden City for four years as an emperor. Emperor Zhudi ruled China from 1402 to 1424 for a total of 22 years. During his 22 years of reign, he made great achievements in political, military, economic, cultural and diplomatic aspects. It is he who built the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven, Big Bell Temple and Ming Tombs as well as moving the capital of China from Nanjing to Beijing. During his reign, China was in its pinnacle with some tributaries.

Opening Hours

08:00-17:30 (Apr. - Oct.)

08:30-17:00 (Nov. - Mar.)


Entrance Fee:

¥ 50 (Apr. - Oct.)

¥ 35 (Nov. - Mar.)


Ming Shisan Ling Area, Changling Town, Changping, Beijing


Getting There

It’s better to book a private car for round trip, Taxi drivers normally don’t go there

Last Updated

2018-05-05 17:13:55

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