Ming Tombs is located some 42 kilometers northwest of central Beijing, within the suburban Changping District of Beijing. It is said that the layout and construction of Ming Tombs is in accordance with ancient Chinese Feng Shui, that is, geomantic omen of ancient China. The site, located on the southern slope of Tianshou Mountain (originally Mount Huangtu), was carefully chosen on the Feng Shui principles by the third Ming Dynasty emperor Yongle (1402–1424), who moved the capital of China from Nanjing to its the present location in Beijing. According to Chinese Feng Shui principles, bad spirits and evil winds descending from the North must be deflected. Therefore, an arc-shaped area at the foot of the Jundu Mountains in north of Beijing was selected. This area is full of dark earth, tranquil water and other necessities, as per Feng Shui, would become the perfect necropolis of the Ming Dynasty. The Ming Tombs area is surrounded by Tianshou Mountain in the north.
The area chosen as an auspicious site for the imperial burial grounds was not only beautiful of scenery, but also in an excellent position from a military perspective as the mountains provided a natural defense for the area.
Layout of Ming Tombs
Not only the site of Ming Tombs is chosen by Chinese Feng Shui, but the layout and construction of it is in accordance with Feng Shui principles.
The overall layout of Ming Tombs is like a tree. Each tomb as a branch of the tree and the trunk of this tree is the Scared Path which leads to the different tombs. The Scared Path is the only way to enter the entire Ming Tombs. This path is lined with statues of guardian animals and officials, with a front gate consisting of a three-arches, painted red, and called the "Great Red Gate". There are 18 pairs of statues of guardian animals and officials lined on the both sides of the Scared Path, which represents that the emperor is still the master of the Empire.
According to the mausoleum system of ancient Chinese imperial tombs, the construction of the Ming Tombs models the palaces in Forbidden City. The perimeter walls are tall. The palaces within the walls are strictly in accordance with a longitudinal axis of the distribution. At the rear of each tomb, and have built a clear floor. Under the floor is the tomb of the emperor.
In front of the tombs, there is a large marble archway. The marble archway, though built some 450 years ago, is still in excellent condition. It is 29 meters wide, supported by six marble pillars and has five arches. The massive pedestals are decorated with relief carvings of dragons and clouds, and on top of each pedestal squats a stone animal, shaped like a rounded cylinder. They are of a traditional design and were originally beacons to guide the soul of the deceased. The archway was built with massive white marble, and the vivid and exquisite archway carving was rarely seen during the Ming and Qing dynasties.