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


01-27-2011 23:13 BJT


With Mount Jinxing as the front mountain, Mount Yingbi as the screening mountain, and Mount Changrui as the back mountain, the Xiaoling Tomb is located at the intersection of the three mountains. As the distance between Mount Jinxing and Mount Changrui is over eight kilometers, the designers specially devised a six-kilometer-long divine road which is exclusive to the coffins and memorial tablets to highlight the two mountains and form an imposing manner. Dozens of buildings from the memorial stone archway which is the landmark to the entrance of the top of the mausoleums are linked together and divided into three sections according to the shapes of the mountain. The first section is from the memorial stone archway to the screen mountain which is around 1.5 kilometers long. The section has a large memorial stone archway and a towering stone tablet pavilion, which is a square pavilion with stone tablets singing the praises of the emperors, matching the straight Mount Jinxing and flat screening mountain. The second section is from the screening mountain to the Five-arched Bridge which is around 3.5 kilometers long. The section has stone human and beast statues, the Dragon-Phoenix Gate which is composed of three stone carved Pailous and four colored glaze walls, and flat and low buildings including the One-arched Bridge, Seven-arched Bridge and Five-arched Bridge, coordinated together with the surrounding flat topography. The third is from the Five-arched Bridge to the top of the mountain which is about one kilometer long.

The section has the main ceremonial buildings including a tablet pavilion which is a square pavilion with stone tablets engraved with the empresses' posthumous titles, the Long'en Gate which is the front door of the mausoleums, the Long'en Hall where grand sacrificial activities were held, the fortress-like square shape tower built by laying bricks, the Minglou Tower built on the square shape tower with erected tombstones and a hung horizontal inscribed board, the top of the mausoleums and the walls surrounding the top. These buildings become higher and higher from south to north, following the landscape of Mount Changrui and the hills on either side of the imperial mausoleums. These buildings were designed and arranged in accordance with the Feng Shui theory, and their size, height, distance and density designed based on certain scale. The natural landscapes are also included in the scenery of the mausoleums to be as setoffs, achieving special artistic effects and giving people a good visual impression and a strong artistic feeling of "tall but not precipitous, low but not humble, scattered but not hollow, dense but not suffocative" and "moving in the static."

Western Qing Mausoleum

The Western Qing Mausoleum is located in Yi County of Baoding City, Hebei Province. Its construction started in 1730 (Yongzheng 8th Year, Qing Dynasty) and was completed in 1915. The construction took 185 years in total. The mausoleum area covers 8,300 hectares, where 14 tombs and two attached buildings (Yongfu Temple and Xinggong Palace) are scattered. The 14 tombs include four imperial tombs of the Tailing Tomb, the Changling Tomb, Muling Tomb and Chongling Tomb, three tombs of imperial concubines, three Jiyuan Tombs, and four tombs of lords, princes and princesses. The most spectacular part of the mausoleum is the forest of 15,000 vigorous ancient pines, which is the largest ancient pine forest in northern China.

The Western Qing Mausoleum is a representative work of the entire Qing Dynasty’s mausoleum architecture. The four well-preserved imperial tombs are large scale, reasonable in overall layout, various in shape and abundant in content, and has splendid palaces and delicate stone statues. The mausoleum park of queens and imperial concubines was built strictly according to the feudal hierarchy, and although it has been eroded by nature over its long history, its scale and overall appearance still remain well preserved. The main part of the mausoleum park of lords, princes and princesses is also preserved well, and so are the Xinggong Palace and Yongfu Temple, making the Western Qing Mausoleum one of the best preserved mausoleums of the Qing Dynasty in China. With its plentiful practical materials and literary and historical documents, the Western Qing Mausoleum can reflect the significant development and change of China’s mausoleum architecture and the royal family’s religious faith in different aspects. The Western Qing Mausoleum has made significant contributions for the innovation and development of China’s ancient mausoleum architecture, and has irreplaceable historic, artistic, scientific and aesthetic value that other mausoleums from previous dynasties does not have.

Both the scale and quality of the four imperial tombs and their attached tombs can reflect the Qing Dynasty’s evolvement from prosperity to decline. The large scale and majestic architecture of the Tailing Tomb and Changling Tomb built in the most prosperous period of Qing Dynasty, the shrunk architecture of the Muling Tomb (the first tomb without the Shengdeshengong Stele Pavilion, Stone Statues, Bright Tower and Bao Tower built in the Qing Dynasty) and the small scale of the Chongling Tomb can truly reflect the historical course of the Qing Dynasty from prosperity to decline and from a feudal society to a half-feudal and half-colonial society. In terms of preservation, the Western Qing Mausoleum is one of the best preserved mausoleums in China’s mausoleum architectural complexes.

The Western Qing Mausoleum has made significant contribution in the innovation and development of China’s ancient mausoleum architecture. For example, the Tailing Tomb, as a typical Qing-style architectural complex of royal palaces, adopted the traditional Chinese Feng Shui theory for the site selection. The theory emphasizes the perfect integration of natural landscape and artificial sceneries, and the Tailing Tomb is a perfect example of that integration. In addition, it also has a complete construction and delicate overall layout which are quite practical. It’s beautiful and splendid architectural style and design has given it a quite high aesthetic value. After 1737, the Emperor Qianlong launched a system that the emperors should be buried in the Eastern Mausoleum and Western Mausoleum in a certain order, and therefore, the current pattern of Eastern Qing Mausoleum and Western Qing Mausoleum started to take shape, and has become completely different from the royal mausoleum systems of the previous dynasties.

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