Ming Xiaoling Tomb Scenic Area

The western-most of the three scenic areas (the closest to Nanjing’s city center), this is the logical place to start before working your way east. This UNESCO World Heritage sight is the final resting place of Zhu Yuanzhang, first Emperor of the Ming Dynasty and major patron of Nanjing. Construction of the tomb began in 1381 with the Emperor firmly at the helm of the project. He was laid to rest on the site in 1398 and the mausoleum was finally completed in 1413.

Leading up to the temple is the Sacred Way, lined with statues (which were each carved from a single slab of stone) of various animals, generals and ministers, all standing guard over the tomb. The Mausoleum itself is divided into three areas. At the front is the ‘Court’, which houses numerous halls and pavilions including the Imperial Kitchen, the Wardrobe Hall and The Imperial Tablet Hall. As you pass through Inner Red Gate to the ‘Residence’, the width of the mausoleum narrows and you follow a straight, tree-lined path to the imposing Rectangular Citadel, a castle-like building, on top of which stands Ming Tower (only the walls of the tower remain). Finally, behind the citadel is Treasure Mound, under which the Emperor and his wife are buried. This largely featureless hill is encircled by a 1000m brick wall, which sprouts from the sides of the Rectangular Citadel.

While it’s somewhat disappointing that the burial chamber has not been excavated, the Ming Xiaoling Tomb is still a very interesting place. Its design was original for the time and influenced the mausoleum designs of future Ming Emperors.

Admission: ¥70. Open: 7-18.

Directions: Bus #20 (from the west side of the Drum Tower) and Bus Y3 from the train station stop here (bus stop signs are in English and there are a couple of stops if you miss the first one).

Alternatively, take the subway to Xiamafang station. You can then take the tourist shuttle (¥10) to Sun Yatsen’s Mausoleum and on to the Ming Xiaoling Tomb.

Show the taxi driver: 请带我去明孝陵, 谢谢。 (Please take me to Ming Xiaoling. Thank you.)