Culture, Perspectives, Travel

The Ming Tombs

The Ming Tombs is a Beijing historical site that I have longed to visit since I was a little girl. More specifically, I have wanted to see a very special camel there. Big Bird in China, a movie that to this day evokes deeply sentimental emotions of nostalgia, features Big Bird, from Sesame Street on a quest to find the infamous and beautiful Chinese bird, Feng huang, the legendary Phoenix.  To do so, he must find all four images, places in China, printed on a scroll given him by a Chinatown shopkeeper.

One such place is within the Ming Tombs; the landmarked picture, a large, stone camel. I can hear the dialogue now and the line from Big Bird that always had me rolling on the floor laughing. As he is racing time in an hour glass, he remarks to his dog, Barkley, “We might as well get going. We’ve seen everything here; a horse, a little bridge, an elephant, a camel… Come on.” As they begin to walk away, it dawns on him… “A CAMEL?!?!”

After many long year of waiting, I found my camel. And it was a most glorious meeting.

Otherwise, the Ming Tombs is an expansive  burial grounds for 13 (of 16) emperors of the Ming dynasty along with their wives and concubines. Three of the tombs are open to the public, Changling, emperor Zhu Di’s (also Yongle) tomb, Dingling, emperor Zhu Yijun’s (also Wanli) tomb, and Zhaoling, emperor Zhu Zaihou’s (also Longqing).

The Sacred Way, one of the most impressive attractions for visitors, serves as the entrance to the tomb grounds. Lined with marble statues of various animal and human figures, including my precious camel. The emperor was believed that the emperor was a Son of Heaven; the Sacred Way was to symbolize a walk back to heaven.

Well worth a visit for it’s history and beautiful scenery. And now I can check off one of four sites on Big Bird’s scroll.


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