Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Changling Tomb.


The best thing about today was that Yim finally arrived. Our group of four is now complete and we're all excited about the trip ahead of us. The worst thing about today was that the sightseeing tour, which included a hike up and down the Simitai section of the Great Wall, that I had signed us all up for was a a major disappointment and the bad weather had a large part to do with that.

I woke up to a chilly day and I could swear there were raindrops. It was not looking for a day that would be mainly focused on outdoor activities.  That was the first bad sign.  The second bad sign was when we got an early morning knock on our door.  I opened the door to see a Chinese man standing on the other side.  He spoke no English so it took a few seconds of gestures to figure out that he was our driver.  Since we weren't quite ready to leave, we left him waiting for us in the hallway while we scurried to get our stuff together.  Around this time, I got a Wechat message from the tour agency telling me that the guide was suppose to take us around had called in sick.  Typically, someone else would fill in but in this case, it would just be us and the driver.  I wasn't happy about that but what to do.  They did reimburse for the guide's time but that was not what I wanted.  What I wanted was for them to send a replacement and if you deal with a larger tour agency, that's exactly what they would do.  But that was not the case here.  Oh well.

Our driver parked the car nowhere near our apartment and the way he was walking was taking us back towards Andingmen station.   We took the opportunity to buy some dumplings along the way - our breakfast.




Without a guide to tell us how our day would unfold and the driver not speaking a lick of English and our contact at the tour agency not being very helpful, there was nothing we could do but just go with the flow.  Hopefully, things would just work out on their own.

A short distance from Beijing was our first destination.  I had no clue what it was until I saw the plaque.



We had arrived at Changling Tomb, the joint burial mausoleum of the third emperor of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Di and his wife, the Empress Xu.  Of the 16 emperors of the Ming Dynasty, Emperor Zhu Di who reigned China from 1402 to 1424 also holds the title of Emperor Yongle.  He is regarded as the Ming Emperor who made the greatest contributions to the country and had the most far-reaching impact on its history as it was during his reign that the Ming Dynasty reached its peak. He is credited with building the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven.  Changling tomb covers about 30 acres. In 1409, Emperor Zhu Di built Changling Tomb. He was the first emperor of the Ming Dynasty to build a tomb. After that another 12 other royal Ming tombs were built making 13 Ming tombs in total.  I'm sure it's possible to visit the other lesser known ones. Changling Tomb is the largest and the most completely preserved of all these tombs and it is a popular tourist attraction here though you would not have known that today as we were the only 3 tourists around!  Our driver got us our tickets and pointed us towards the entrance.

Sadly, no map or descriptive plaques to describe what we were seeing so I just took photos.  Using a map I found on line, I was able to identify several of the structures in the mausoleum complex.

As you pass through the main entrance gate, the first structure you see is the Ling'enmen Gate aka the Gate of Eminent Favor.



After Ling'enmen Gate, you enter a large courtyard.  Before you stands the largest structure in the complex - Ling'en Hall aka Hall of Eminent Favor.


Between the Ling'enmen Gate and Ling'en Hall is a large courtyard.  There stand two small structures which are sacrificial silk burners which were used for rituals, to burn silk scriptures and other sacred silk artifacts.





A view of Ling'enmen Gate.




Back in the Ming days, Ling'en Hall was a ceremonial hall.  Today, it's a small museum cum gift shop.  Presumably the items on display are from the Emperor's and Empress's personal collections.





The top of a royal seal

Sheath for a bow.

Scroll inscribed with royal edicts.  I don't  know what that script on the left is.

Hairpins

A goblet

Embroidered piece of silk.  I think the thread is gold.


These teeny weeny shoes are adult women's shoes worn back in the day when Chinese women's feet were bound!

I loved this top.  It's a design that's several centuries old but I could see it shown on a haute couture fashion show.

I'm guessing this is Emperor Zhu Di....given that we are visiting his mausoleum.






Somewhere while I was still checking out the display items in Ling'en Hall, Bro and SK had long left the place so I continued on my own.   Next, it was the Ling Xing Archway.


And another massive structure - Minglou aka the Soul Tower.  Minglou is the actual mausoleum where the Emperor Zhu Di and his wife are entombed.  Before the tower are the five sacrificial vessels. 


At this point, I got a text message from Bro telling me to make my way around to the back of this very imposing structure and to keep my eyes out for the girl wearing the trash bag.  Okay.  Now, how to get to the back of this place.  The only obvious route took me through tunnel....


....and then up some steps....


....and then up another set of steps.  Sure enough, I ended up on the other side of the building from where I started.


The steps led to a small terrace where we could take in views of the surrounding countryside. Very tranquil place to be buried.




Bro and SK were there but where was the girl wearing the trash bag.  Well, that turned out to be SK because she was wearing a black plastic rain poncho.  The chill in the air was getting chillier and that was the only piece of clothing she had that she could layer to try to stay warm.  We were all undressed for the day!

Standing smack dab in the middle of the archway that tops Minglou was a single stone stele.  I'm guessing this marks the location of the Emperor's tomb which are actually situated several floors below.....maybe even below ground.





The terrace at Minglou was also a great place to look over the complex.  In the photo below, you can see Ling Xing archway.  Just beyond that is the structure known as Neihongmen Gate and looming over both those two structures in Ling'enmen Hall.


There's not a whole lot to see at Minglou so just a few minutes of being there and we were ready to leave. 

We headed back down the steps but exited a different way from the way I had arrived - not through the tunnel but a side entrance.  I suspect this is how I was suppose to have entered because Bro and SK knew that was the way to go!


Bro and the girl wearing the trash bag 😁



Back our front, we reunited with our driver to head to our next destination which would be the Great Wall.  Originally, the plan was for us to go to Simitai but our contact at the tour agency suggested we go to the Jinshanling section instead.  I had hiked Simitai in 2009 and although it was a tough walk up for me, I though the scenery from the top was fantastic so that's why I wanted to do it again.  Okay, I would've had Bro and SK go all the way to the top, I would walk part way up.  Apparently, the Simitai section was renovated and restored in 2010 and since then has become extremely touristy so our tour agency contact suggested Jinshanling instead.  If we are still going by our original itinerary, then Jinshanling is where we're headed to next but given how things have already gone today, who knows?  Go with the flow!