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Sacred Way

Sacred Way

 
 
 

In the front part of the imperial mausoleum, there usually is a Sacred Way (or Divine Road) which means the road leading to heaven. This custom started from the Western Han Dynasty (202BC-25AD). The Emperor, known as the Son of the Heaven, who came from Heaven to his country through the Sacred Way, also deservedly would return to Heaven through this road.

Among the many Sacred Ways, the one of Ming Tombs' is best preserved and complete. The Sacred Way starts with a huge stone memorial archway lying at the front of the area. Constructed in 1540, during the Ming Dynasty, this archway is the earliest and biggest stone archway existing in China today. Six rectangular pillars support it with beautiful bas-relief carvings (lions, dragons, lotus flowers). It is 14 meters high and 28.86 meters wide.

Farther, a pavilion of the "Stele of Divine Merit and Sacred Virtue, Changling, Great Ming" can be seen. Inside it, there lies a 50-ton stone tortoise carrying a stone tablet. A white marble Huabiao (ornamental pillar) is positioned at each corner of the stele pavilion. At the top of each is stationed a mythical beast facing either inward or outward, expressing hope that the emperor will neither cling to the palace nor forget to return to the Palace to handle state affairs.
This Sacred Way starts with two hexagonal columns on either side, they are carved with a cloud design. Their tops are shaped like a rounded cylinder.
 
Then follow, one on each side, lions, xie zhi, camels, elephants, Qilin, horses of stone are two kneeling, two standing, totally 24 stone animals. Lions are powerful; xie zhi, a mythical beast, is a discriminator between honest and dishonest; Qilin (a kind of imaginary animal with a scaly body, a cow's tail, deer's hooves and, horns on its head) is considered as a lucking animal; camels, elephants, are royal and kind to their owners; horses are fond of speedy running.

A slight turn of the Sacred Way leads to the human statues. Even this slight turn is in conformity with the principle of Feng Shui. On each side stand two generals, two civil officials and two "retired" government officials, 6 on each side, and 12 in all. They are larger-than-life-size human statues.
The avenue of stone animals and statues ends at Ling Xing Gate,also known as the Dragon and Phoenix Gate.
 
But the Sacred Way goes on beyond the Dragon and Phoenix Gate towards the chief tomb, Changling, emperor Yongle's tomb.
 
 
By Angela Zhangyue
 
  
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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