The Western Qing Tombs are one of the groups of mausoleums of emperors from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), which twins with Eastern Qing Tombs . It lies at the foot of the green and lofty Yongning Mountain in the north, about 15 kilometers (9.32 miles) west of County Yi, Hebei Province and 120 kilometers (74.56 miles) west of the capital Beijing. It is also a close neighbor to the twisting and bewitching Yishui River in the south, as well as the Hebei section of the Great Wall – Zijingguan Pass in the west. Covering an area of about 800 square kilometers (198 thousand acres) and with a perimeter of 100 kilometers (62.14 miles), the whole area is surrounded by more than 20 thousand ancient but healthy pines. With its enthralling scenery, high cultural values, delicate craft work and unique designs, the Western Qing Tombs have proved to be a charming and popular location for tourists from both home and abroad ever since it was unveiled to the public.
The Western Qing Tombs incorporate fourteen royal mausoleums where seventy-eight royal members in all are buried. These include four emperors of the Qing Dynasty and their empresses, imperial concubines, princes and princesses, as well as other royal servants. The architecture fully displays the strict ranking system in the feudalistic society at that time. The emperors’ tombs are the largest among the whole group, which is successively followed by those of the empresses, concubines and others. Notably, the tops of the emperors’ and empress’ mausoleums are covered by yellow glazed tiles while those of other mausoleums are green.
The main part of the Western Qing Tombs consists of the four emperors’ mausoleums -Tailing, Changling, Muling and Chongling. There are over a thousand rooms in palaces and in excess of one hundred ancient stone buildings and carvings sprinkled around this area, which are all majestic, rich in sculptural artifacts, reflecting the pageantry of that time. These include the Beilou (Building enclosed a stele that records the achievements of emperors), Chaofang (the Hall of Worship where sacrificial food is prepared), Long’en Dian (Palace for Imperial Blessings and the place sacrifices are made), Baoding (Treasure Top, the top of an underground palace where the emperor was buried) and some mighty gates, etc. All the mausoleums have their own characteristics that reveal the high level of technique and wisdom of the ancient Chinese People.
Tailing is the mausoleum of Emperor Yongzheng (reigned 1723-1736). It is the largest, earliest and most complete tomb among these and the centre of the Western Qing Tombs. It is said that the tomb was originally positioned in the area of the Eastern Qing Tombs, but Emperor Yongzheng thought the selected place geologically unsuitable and altered it to the present point, viewing this place as more favorable and blessed for an eternal kingdom. The entrance is by an arched bridge where you’ll find a Large Red Door and three very gorgeous stone arches (Paifang in Chinese), all they forming a peculiar Siheyuan (traditional residential place with houses around a courtyard).
Changling is the mausoleum of Emperor Jiaqing (reigned 1796-1820). The main building is very similar inside to Tailing. In the Long’en Dian, the floor is paved with bright piebald stones elaborately decorated with flowers and patterns, which gained the reputation as being ‘Full of Gems in the Palace’. Another wonder is the Echoing Stone and Echoing Wall in the Changxiling, the mausoleum of the empress of Emperor Jiaqing, which can achieve the same effect as the Echoing Wall in the Temple of Heaven in Beijing.
Muling is the mausoleum of Emperor Daoguang (reigned 1821-1850). The scale is not as large as the former two tombs, but it is no less ostentatious and enchanting. The whole of the Long’en Dian is built with Nanmu (a very fragrant and valuable timber) decorated with many vigorous dragons that toss their heads and appear to be flying through the clouds and waves. So this is how a well-known saying, ‘Ten thousand dragons collect together to spray their fragrance’, spread amongst the people.
Chongling is the mausoleum of Emperor Guangxu (reigned 1875-1908), it is small in size and the last one to be constructed. The construction is mainly made from iron and bronze, which won it the name of ‘Bronze Girder and Iron Wall’. The decoration inside is quite flamboyant and glaring to the eye.
The Western Qing Tombs are one of the most important and valuable ancient mausoleums in Chinese history, and they are also listed in the World Cultural Heritage. For those who are interested in natural scenery and the exploration of ancient Chinese history that is dominated by the minority Manchu ethnic people, this much-loved place is surely a must.