Sunday, 30th of April 2017
Strolling towards the tombs of one of the most powerful women of the Qing dynasty – the dowager empress Cixi.
Weekends are for daytripping – at the end of last month that motto brought us to the Eastern Qing Tombs in Zunhua, almost 130km northeast of the Jing in the province of Hebei. Since online research suggested that regular public transportation wasn’t an option we went to Qianmen to buy a bus ticket with one of the public tourism companies a day in advance. We must have scored two of the last tickets, because early the next morning when we entered the bus, almost all the seats were taken. Five hours later, when we finally arrived at the Qing Tombs, we definitly learned some lessons:
- Always arrive some 30 minutes ahead of time if you want to have adjecent seats
I’m not gonna translate that (go ahead and use the translator)
in the bus (that one should go without saying, and it proved to be true once more);
- Boiled eggs are a type of “fast food” snack in China and a fart-like smell that creeps through the centre aisle does not necessarily mean that somebody couldn’t restrain themselves;
- No matter how innocent an intersection looks, you can be almost certain that traffic will jam for miles nonetheless (giving you the time to stretch your legs and buy some ice cream at a rural 小卖部);
- If you didn’t think about “doing your business” before the trip, you better be prepared to pay 10 Kuai to use the roadside thunderbox for a No. 2.
- Never trust that the bus driver knows the way – even after continously consulting his cell phone map, he chose a road that allowed only vehicles no taller than 2.9m (yes, a long distance bus is taller than that). Luckily, pragmatism wins, and ten minutes after being stuck here a
Our bus driver didn’t agree with the hight limitation of the road he chose, so he asked the gatekeeper to lift it.
chubby gatekeeper arrived to ramp up the steel barrier and let us pass.
Exploring the Qing Tombs
The burial site was too large to see it all in three hours, and we will definitly come here again with a rental car. Along the way many locals offered rural homestays for rent, so it might even be an option to make this a weekend trip. The imperial mausoleum complex is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and requires a whole day of sightseeing if you want to see it all. On the tomb grounds, shuttle buses and golf caddies transport visitors from one grave to the next.
Again, I have embarrassingly little to write about the historic significance of the Qing Tombs. In fact, I am still waiting to discover a tourist site in China that actually has meaningful descriptions that provide some background information about the place you are visiting. So instead of paraphrasing Wikipedia I trust that the images convey the grandeur and splendor of the Qing Tombs. Enjoy.
At the entrance to the expansive tomb grounds ponds with water lilies and marble bridges greet the visitors.
Three gates granting access to the necropolis of the Qing emperors. The left (eastern) gate is the entrance gate for the emperor, whereas the west gate was used by the ministers. The coffin was carried through the center gate.
Yu Tomb (Qian Long) Stone Tributes, representing an altar with an oven, two candle holders and two vases on it. It was used to worship the ancestors. During the Qing dynasty, the royal harem could go no further than here.
Yuling, the tomb of the Qianlong emperor is one of the most magnificient royal graves in Chinese history. A series of nine vaults separated by four solid marble doors, weighting 3 tons each, are located at a depth of 54 metres. In 1928 the underground palace was robbed by the warlord Sun Dianying.
Down below in the Yuling tombs, all the walls, vaulted ceilings, and gates are covered with Buddhist imagery and more than 30,000 words of Tibetan scripture and Sanskrit.
Reenactment of a royal ceremony.
Marble bridges leading to the Xiao Tombs Tablet Tower. The double eave gablet roof covers the tablet on which Emperor Shun Zhi’s title is carved in three languages – Manchu, Mongolian, and Chinese.
Cixi Tomb Small Tablet Tower.
Looking down from the Ming Tower of Cixi’s Tomb, the highest site of the mausoleum.
Below, the grave grounds span all the way to the mountains.