2008-07-03 07:52:34 GMT 2008-07-03 15:52:34 (Beijing Time) City Weekend
The Ming Tombs are a total gyp. In fact, anything that can be combined with a Great Wall trip is most likely not worth the effort. The Eastern Qing Tombs, however, are a different story, featuring fantastic architecture, a genuinely sepulchral vibe and nature in spades. And the best way to experience it is at night.
A long path winds you through gentle plains, passing by impressive funerary statues and through an ancient pailou before reaching the tombs, 18 sq. miles of protected valley. Head right for Dingdongling, Cixi’s resting place, and marvel at what 72 tons of silver could buy you a century ago.
The crowning glory of the tombs is Qianlong’s. Make your way through the gates before hitting the ramp into the underworld. Descend 65 feet and pass through three elaborately carved marble gates. Grave robbers fortunately did not disturb the magnificent Buddhist carvings which adorn every inch of the chamber. In the final hall, find carved vaulted ceilings over the actual coffins where the bodies of the greatest Qing emperor and his consorts were laid to rest. Other tombs are open to the public and all are worth a look. Take your time and explore. No need to rush, because that night you’ll stay at the Ying Jia Nongjiayuan (¥60 for a clean room and a meal) adjacent to the tombs. The next day, before heading back to town, spend a few hours tramping around the longmenkou reservoir, a placid little reservoir separated from the main highway by a ridge of hills.