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Sacred Way


Sacred Way


Located at the foot of Tianshou Mountain in Changping District, about 50 kilometers northwest
of the city area of Beijing, Ming Tombs is actually a range of imperial mausoleum constructions
of thirteen emperors of the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

In the front part of imperial necropolises there is the 3.5 Km long Sacred Way, which means the
road leading to Heaven. The emperor, known as the Son of Heaven went through the sacred
road to the sacrificial altar to converse Heaven during his reign, naturally, after his death, he
would also go through the Sacred Way back to heaven.

Alongside the Sacred Way are 18 pairs of marble figures lined up in antithesis, these marble
figures, sculptured from whole stones, were erected over 500 years ago, the traditional way of
putting over marble figures as guard of honor in front of the mausoleum began in the Han
Dynasty which signified the dignity of the emperor, symbolizing the good fortune and warding
off evil influence.

This Sacred Way starts with two hexagonal columns called Wang Zhu 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 (a mythical beast of feline family, with a mane and a horn on its head), camels
, elephants, Qilin (a kind of imaginary animal with a scaly body, a cow's tail, deer's hooves and, horns on its head), horses. All these six animals
are two kneeling, two standing, 12 animals on each side and 24 animals in all. They were supposed to change guards at midnight.

Shenlu(Sacred-Way)Different animals had each their symbolic significance:
The lion, ferocious in nature and lording it over the animal kingdom, symbolized
awesome solemnity. The Xiezhi, a mythological unicorn which was supposed to
possess a sixth sense to tell between right and wrong and which, when two men were
embroiled in a fight, would gore the wicked one, was put there to keep evil spirits away.
The camel and elephant, being dependable means of transport in the deserts and
tropics, put together at the imperial tombs, were meant to suggest the vastness of the
territory controlled by the court. The Qilin, one of the four "divine animals" (the other three
are dragon, phoenix and tortoise), was represented at the tombs as an auspicious
symbol. The horse, being the emperor's mount on many occasions, was of course
indispensable.

 
 


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