The most elaborate of the two restored tombs
is that of Emperor Shen Zong (Wan Li) who reigned from 1573-1620
A.D. You will cross a small bridge which is marked with a stele
on the back of a tortoise on the far side. Following the road brings
the visitor to an entrance gate with three arched doorways. Passing
through the wall in which the doors are set, the visitor walks toward
a terrace which holds the bases of some stone columns that are all
that remain of a building that once stood on the site. On one end
three sets of stone steps lead down from the terrace to a tree-lined
courtyard. At the other end of the terrace are three stairways,
the middle one leading to another small terrace where sacrifices
were made. Again only the bases of surviving columns remain of the
building that once occupied the spot. Following the path further
along brings the visitor to a gateway that opens onto a third courtyard
on either side of which are two small museum buildings.
The first museum, to the right, contains a model
and photographs tracing the excavation of the tomb, and possessions
of the two empresses buried in Ding Ling (Empress Xiao Duan, the
Emperor's first wife who died in 1620 a few months before the Emperor,
and his secondary wife, Empress Xiao Jing, who died in 1612 and
whose body was moved to Ding Ling only after her son became emperor).
The second museum, to the left, contains the possessions of the
Emperor. The museum exhibition rooms have some three thousand items
including clothing, silver, jade, and porcelain.
At the far end of this third courtyard is the
large brick Square Tower and on top of this a Stele Tower. The Square
Tower was erected against the Precious Wall which goes around the
tumulus. Stairs lead up to the top of the Precious Wall from which
it is possible to walk onto the tumulus. Additional stairs lead
up to the top of the Square Tower.
Entrance to the tomb proper is near here. The
tomb contains three rooms and can be reached by descending three
flights of stairs. The first or outer room was of little value as
nothing was found here during the excavation. The central chamber
contained three altars and funerary lamps. Behind these alters was
a very intricately carved throne. The third or final room, which
cups the other two like a "T," is where the bodies of
the Emperor and Empresses were laid, as well as the considerable
treasurers with which they were interred.
The two side chambers on either side of the central
chamber are still something of a mystery. Each one had a platform
large enough to hold a coffin and from each a corridor led out of
the tumulus, but when the excavation was complete, both rooms were
found to be empty. It is thought that they were meant for the two
empresses but at the last minute the coffins were found to be too
large so they had to be interred in the emperor's chamber.