This is one of the places on the tour I had not read about prior to coming to China. And that is a shame because the place is fascinating in a very peaceful way.
The name is a bit misleading. The site is from the Ming era, but there are no tombs in the area we visited. The tombs are in the surrounding mountains.
The Yongle Emperor, the same visionary who designed the Forbidden City, chose a site in the mountains for his tomb. Thirteen subsequent Ming empires were buried there.
What is open to the public is a park enclosing part of the ceremonial road leading to the tombs. The full road is seven miles long.
The central feature of the park is a long pathway with a series of statues. Human worthies. Animals. All of them in the service of their Ming masters. And symbolizing the emperor's power that transcends even death.
You will find civil officials, generals, horses, chimerical qilins, elephants, camels, justice-loving xiezhis, and lions. Not unlike the road of rams at the Temple at Karnak.
Like most Chinese ceremonial grounds, the site is larded with feng shui principles. Even the bend in the path has its own meaning.
The path culminates in a post-Ming pavilion housing the statue of a giant tortoise. Legend promises health or wealth to anyone who rubs either the head or tail. But, like a stingy genie, rubbers get only one choice.