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China Archives of World Heritage (15)--Imperial mausoleums of Ming and Qing dynasties


01-27-2011 23:13 BJT

Evaluation of the World Heritage Committee

According to the geomantic theory, the Mausoleum of the Ming and Qing Emperor was well selected, and a large number of buildings were cleverly placed underground. It is a product of human beings changing nature and reflects traditional architecture and decoration ideas and explains the view of the world and the idea of the right lasting for over 500 years in feudal China.

Mausoleum of the Ming and Qing Emperor

Mausoleum of the Ming and Qing Emperor

Chinese Name: Ming Qing Huang Jia Ling Qin

English Name: Mausoleum of the Ming and Qing Emperor

According to the cultural and natural heritage selection criteria C(I)(III)(VI), C(I)(III)(IV)(V)(VI) and C(I)(III)(IV)(V)(VI), the Mingxian Tomb, the Eastern Qing Tombs and the Western Qing Tomb were included in the World Heritage List in 2000 and in 2003, the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum and the Ming Tombs were also included in the World Heritage List.

The feudal dynasties of the past in China all promoted "an elaborate funeral to demonstrate filial piety" and viewed death as important as birth. Therefore, before they died, the emperors would spend a great deal of financial and human resources to build huge mausoleums. These mausoleums are a concentrated reflection of these emperors' belief in souls during the Chinese feudal period and embody the political ideology, moral values and aesthetic standard in every different period. At the same time, the mausoleums built by the national financial resources also reflect the economy, science and technology and the technological level at that time, and are the highest form of funerary art and architecture in China. The mausoleum buildings are important parts of ancient Chinese architecture and are unique due to the impact of the mentioned factors.

It was from the Warring States Period that the tombs of emperors were called mausoleums and they first appeared in the Zhao, Chu and Qin dynasties. Due to the further social development and continued strengthening of the feudal monarchy, kings and supreme rulers at that time constructed wider and taller tombs that looked like hills, and therefore, they were called mausoleums.

Before the Western Zhou Dynasty, most emperor tombs were made of wood and without a grave mound while those in the Qin and Han dynasties represented by the Qin Shi Huang Mausoleum had bucket-shaped grave mounds and are characterized by building luxurious tombs and tall grave mounds. The mausoleums of the Tang Dynasty are represented by the Zhao Mausoleum built by the mountainside where the Emperor Taizong was buried, and they show the styles and features in the flourishing age of the Tang Dynasty. In the Five Dynasties and Ten States and the Song Dynasty periods, the scale of mausoleums was decreased due to frequent wars and descending national power, and in the Yuan Dynasty, emperors were buried deep underground without any traces above ground. After nearly 400 years of hard times for ancient Chinese tombs, they entered the golden age in the Ming and Qing dynasties.

Zhu Yuanzhang, the first emperor in the Ming Dynasty, reformed the previous system of the tombs and changed the bucket-shaped grave mound into a rounded mound, increased equipment for holding the memorial ceremony and changed the square courtyards into rectangular multi-door courtyards, creating a new mausoleum system.The mausoleums of the Qing Dynasty not only inherited the Ming Dynasty's system but also made further reformations and improvements, and brought ancient Chinese tomb construction to its climax.

First, the mausoleums of the Qing Dynasty emphasized the environmental quality and they not only conducted strict investigations on several factors including hydrology, geology and climate, but also attached importance to the shape of the mountain, and required the selected environment to fully embody the theory that "man is an integral part of nature." Second, the mausoleums of the Qing Dynasty paid more emphasis on harmoniously unifying construction and the environment with buildings that matched the surrounding topographical features. This created a desirable mausoleum atmosphere. Third, the mausoleums of the Qing Dynasty emphasized the construction quality and not only looked strong and firm, but also gorgeous and magnificent.

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