Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing

Reflecting the religious beliefs, aesthetics, and thoughts of the period

Country: China | Type: Cultural | Theme: Burial 

Introduction to Imperial Tombs of the Ming and Qing Dynasties

During the era of feudalism China, dynasties ordered the construction of ornate mausoleums in order to show respect to the ancestors. These tombs were built for deceased emperors and their kinsmen. The mausoleums reflect the religious beliefs, aesthetics, and political thought of the period. Ming and Qing Dynasty tombs contain 10 structural compounds that took over 500 years to build. Located near Beijing, some of these complexes are over 1,000 kilometers away from each other. These 3 tombs in Shengjing resulted from the new minority emperors of Northeast China. Within these tombs are great quantities of cultural evidence concerning the design styles, ideas, architecture, and traditions of a minority group in this period.

The 3 Imperial burial sites all exhibit their own architectural organization, which include spaces for ritual ceremonies and incorporate the natural environment and geologic setting. The Yongling Tomb is an example of the burial methods of the Nuzhen and Man groups of the early Qing Dynasty. The Fuling Tomb reflects the accomplishments of the flowering of the Man culture. The Zhaoling Tomb is also an excellent sample of the developing of the Man nationality.

The 3 Imperial Tombs of the Qing Dynasty in Shengjing are situated in the province of Liaoning in Manchuria, which is in the northeastern region of China. The Zhaoling Tomb and Fuling Tomb are situated 600 kilometers to the east of Beijing in the outskirts of Shenyang city, which is the capital of the province as well as a big hub of industry. 50 kilometers to the east is the Yongling Tomb, close to Fushun City. The design and organization of the tombs conform to the precepts of Fengshui and traditional Chinese geomancy. They also possess architecture and decorations that reflect the evolution of Qing Dynasty funerary construction.

The Yongling Tomb was constructed for the predecessors of Nurhachi, the first of the Qing emperors who lived from 1559 to 1626. This tomb houses the remains of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. It is situated at the base of the mountains of Qiyun, close to the Suzi River, which is northwest of the township of Yongling. Within the tomb complex is the Square Castle or Fabhcheng, the Front Courtyard, and the tombs encircled by tall walls or Baocheng. To enter the tomb, pass through the Red Gate that contains pavilions housing stone tablets. Flanking these pavilions are service buildings and tea houses. The primary structure of the Square Castle is Qiyun Hall, which is situated in the middle of the complex, and was used as a place to give offerings. Located at the rear of this hall are a Treasure City and the predecessors of the first emperor in domed tombs.

The Qing Emperor Nurhachi and the Empress Yehenala created the East Tomb, or Fuling Tomb. It was constructed on the side of Mount Tianzhu and looks out on the River Hun in the eastern outskirts of Shenyang. The tomb was aligned on the middle axis. In the first area, there is the Main Red Gate, Stone Archways, and Sacred Way. The main part is the Square City with the Treasure City, Long’en Hall, and Treasure Peak.  The Sacred Road, running for 566 meters, begins at the Red Gate and goes to the end of Long’en Hall. On either side are stone figures depicting camels, lions, tigers and horses. Following a bridge are 108 stairs leading to the peak of the mausoleum, which stands for the heavens. The Underground Palace of Fuling lies beneath the Treasure Peak and contains the imperial tombs.

The North Tomb, or Zhaoling Tomb, was made for the Emperor Huantaiji and Empress Xiaoduanwen of the Qing Dynasty. The entire complex is situated on a south to north axis. After passing through the Main Red Gate is the Treasure Peak. Next is the Stand Stele Pavilion, which has 4 ceremonial pavilions on either side. Before the Treasure Peak that houses the tombs is the sacrificial Long’en Hall that is enclosed by a rectangular wall.

Key Facts

Nearest City:Fushun & Shenyang
Province:Liaoning & Shenyang
Coordinates: Lat: 41.7072, Long: 124.7938


  • Ornate Imperial mausoleums
  • Evidence of the flowering of Man Nationality culture
  • Initial construction during the Qing Dynasty
  • Excellent Qing funerary architecture
  • Design following Fengshui and Chinese geomancy
  • Underground palaces and treasure peaks
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