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The 13 Ming Tombs


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map of Ming Tombs

Different Views on Death

Beijing served as the national capital during the Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. Unlike Ming and Qing rulers who all built massive tombs for themselves, Yuan rulers left no similar burial grounds. Why the difference?

This has to do with people's different views on death. Beijing nomads came from the Mongolian steppe. Mongols who established the Yuan Dynasty held the belief that they had come from: earth. they adopted a simple funeral method: the dead was placed inside a hollowed nanmu tree, which was then buried under grassland. Growth of grass soon left no traces of the tombs.

By contrast, during the Ming Dynasty established by Han Chinese coming from an agricultural society in central China, people believed the existence of an after-world, where the dead "lived" a life similar to that of the living. Ming emperor, therefore, has grand mausoleums built for themselves. Qing rulers did likewise.

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