Thirteen Emperors Buried in Ming Tombs

The Thirteen Ming Tombs are so called for there are thirteen emperors of Ming Dynasty buried in this area of 40 square kilometers in Changping District in the northwest of Beijing City. The first tomb was built in 1409 and the last one built in 1644. Therefore, the construction of the tombs took more than 200 years, almost throughout the whole Ming Dynasty.


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The thirteen Ming Dynasty imperial tombs are Changling of Emperor Cheng Zu (Zhu Di), Qingling of Emperor Guang Zong (Zhu Changluo), Kangling of Emperor Wu Zong (Zhu Houzhao), Xianling of Emperor Ren Zong (Zhu Gaozhi), Jingling of Emperor Xuan Zong (Zhu Zhanji), Yuling of Emperor Ying Zong (Zhu Qizhen), Zhaoling of Emperor Mu Zong (Zhu Zaihou), Yongling of Emperor Shi Zong (Zhu Houzong), Dingling of Emperor Shen Zong (Zhu Yijun), Tailing of Emperor Xiao Zong (Zhu Youtang), Deling of Emperor Xi Zong (Zhu Youjiao), Siling of Emperor Si Zong (Zhu Youjian) and Maoling of Emperor Xian Zong (Zhu Jianshen),

Now, the detailed information of the thirteen emperors is stated as follow for your reference.

Changling of Emperor Cheng Zu (Zhu Di)
Changling of Emperor Cheng Zu , Zhu Di, is buried in Changling Tomb. Emperor Cheng Zu , Zhu Di (1360 - 1424), is the third emperor of Ming Dynasty. He ruled Ming Dynasty from 1402 to 1424 for 22 years. Zhu Di had gone through a war of several years before he finally occupied the Ming Dynasty of Nangjing and became emperor. After Emperor Chengzu ascended to the throne in Nanjing, he changed his reign title to Yong Le. He was the emperor who moved the capital of Ming Dynasty to Beijing (Beijing was called Beiping at that time).

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Zheng He's voyages to the Western Seas happened during the reign of Yong Le. And also it was him who decided to choose auspicious sites for imperial burial grounds in Beijing. In 1409 by the 7th year of the Yong Le reign, the burial site was selected according to the requirement of Emperor Cheng Zu. When he visited the place himself and saw a vast area with good soil and ringed by hills, he was quite satisfied with the location. The he chose a site to build his own tomb for himself. Thus the construction of the Changling Tomb began. Changling Tomb was the first imperial tomb in this area.

Xianling of Emperor Ren Zong (Zhu Gaozhi)
Emperor Ren Zong, Zhu Gaozhi (1378 - 1425), was the eldest son of Zhu Di, Emperor Cheng Zu. He was the forth emperor of Ming Dynasty of China. He ascended the throne in 1424 after Emperor Cheng Zu died and changed the era name Yong Le to Hong Xi. After 10 month he ascended the throne, he died of illness at the age of 47 year old. Then he was buried in Xianling Tomb in Ming Tombs area.

Jingling of Emperor Xuan Zong (Zhu Zhanji)
Emperor Xuan Zong, Zhu Zhanji (1398 - 1435), is the fifth emperor of Ming Dynasty. He was the eldest son of Emperor Renzong Zhu Gaochi. He ascended the throne in 1425 and changed the era name to Xuande the next year. In 1435 AD, Emperor Xuanzong died in the Palace of Heavenly Purity at the age of 37. And then he was buried in Jingling Tomb, one of Ming Tombs of 13 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty.

Emperor Xuanzong was a key figure in the development of painting academies during the mid-Ming Dynasty. He was a man of great versatility and was expert in poems, painting and calligraphy. Therefore, during his reign, cultural work was prosperous and a number of virtuosi appeared from painting academies.

Yuling of Emperor Ying Zong (Zhu Qizhen)
Emperor Ying Zong, Zhu Qizhen (1427 - 1464), was the sixth emperor of Ming Dynasty. was the eldest son of Emperor Xuanzong. He reigned from the year 1435 under the era name of Zhengtong. In 1464 AD, Emperor Yingzong died of illness and was buried in Yuling Tomb, one of Ming Tombs of 13 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty.

At the time of his accession, the power of eunuchs was on the rise and Emperor Yingzong readily listened to the advice of his eunuch Wang Zhen. For the actual power was in the hands of Wang Zhen, the government began to decay. And Wala Mongolians from beyond the Great Wall started invading the Ming Dynasty. At the instigation of Wang Zhen, Emperor Yingzong personally led his soldiers against the Wala Mongolians. However, he was unfortunately captured due to application of inappropriate military tactics. After that, his younger brother Zhu Qiyu (Emperor Jingzong) ascended to throne so as to calm the people. Later on, Emperor Yingzong was released by Wala Mongolians, but he was immediately imprisoned by Emperor Jingzong for eight years. Emperor Yingzong restored his authority while Emperor Jingzong was ill, and renamed his second reign Tianshun.

Maoling of Emperor Xian Zong (Zhu Jianshen)
Emperor Xian Zong, Zhu Jianshen (1447 - 1487), was the eighth emperor of Ming Dynasty. The era name in his reign was Chenghua, meaning "Accomplished change". He ruled Ming Dynasty from 1464 to 1487. Emperor Xianzong died in 1487and was buried in Maoling Tomb, one of the Ming Tombs of 13 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty.

Chenghua ascended the throne at the age of 16. Emperor Xianzong was quiet, prudent and easy-going, and trusted his ministers. During his reign, the political situation was relatively stable except for the Yao rebellion in Guangxi and the refugee uprisings in Jingxiang Yunyang mountainous area.


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Tailing of Emperor Xiao Zong (Zhu Youtang)
Emperor Xiao Zong, Zhu Youtang (1470 - 1505), was the ninth emperor of Ming Dynasty. He was the third son of Emperor Xianzong. He ascended the throne in 1487. The era name of his reign was Hongzhi. Emperor Xiaozong died of illness in 1505 at the age of 36. And he was buried in Tailing Tomb, one of the Ming Tombs of 13 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty.

The reign of Emperor Xiaozong was later praised as "the Restoration of Hongzhì". After he ascended the throne, he removed treacherous court officials and appointed a number of upright and virtuous court officials. After that, the government took on a brand-new look. His industry in all state affairs and efforts to make the state prosperous ushered in another revival during the Ming Dynasty.

Kangling of Emperor Wu Zong (Zhu Houzhao)
Emperor Wuzong of the Ming Dynasty, Zhu Houzhao (1491-1521), was a son of Emperor Xiaozong Zhu Youtang and the tenth emperor of the Ming Dynasty. His ruled Ming Dynasty from 1505 AD to 1521 AD under the era name of Zhengde. In 1521, Emperor Wuzong died and was buried in Kangling Tomb, one of the Ming Tombs of 13 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty.

Zhengde ascended the throne and was married to the Empress at the age of 14. Unlike his father, Zhengde was not interested in ruling or his Empress and disregarded all state affairs Emperor Wuzong was a controversial emperor in history. Some argued that he was incontinent, violent, weird, shameless and fatuous, but some others believed, on the basis of historical research in recent years, that he was an emperor with strong personality who pursued individual liberation, freedom and equality.

Yongling of Emperor Shi Zong (Zhu Houzong)
Emperor Shi Zong, Zhu Houzong (1507 – 1567), was the eleventh emperor of Ming Dynasty. He was a cousin of Emperor Wuzong. In 1566 AD, Emperor Shizong died and was buried in Yongling Tomb.

In 1521 AD, the 15-year-old Zhu Houcong was chosen to become the emperor and changed the title of the reign to Jiajing the next year, after Emperor Wuzong died. He reigned for 45 years. At the beginning of his reign, Emperor Shizong abolished corrupt policies adopted by the previous emperor, and then the affairs of the state took on a brand-new outlook. He cracked down on the forces of previous courtiers, the royal family and his relatives that had made great contributions to the state, and held plenary authority over internal and external affairs, which resulted in intensive concentration of the imperial power.

Zhaoling of Emperor Mu Zong (Zhu Zaihou)
Emperor Mu Zong, Zhu Zaihou (1537 - 1572), was the twelfth emperor of Ming Dynasty. Born 1537 as Zhu Zaihou, and being the eldest surviving son of the Emperor Jiajing, Emperor Longqing ascended the throne in February 1567, 30 years old. He died in July 1572 at the age of 36, after a reign of only 6 years with the reign title of “ Longqing”. He was buried in the Zhaoling Tomb.

During his reign, Zhu Zaihou would let go of his officials to bring their talents into full play. The society was stabilized at that time and the economy greatly improved compared with that of previous regime. As his mother Concubine Dukang was no longer favored by the emperor and he was not the eldest son, Zhu Zaihou seldom got his father's love. In 1553, when Zhu Zaihou was just 16 years old, he began to live independently at Yuwang Mansion. The 13-year life at the mansion gave Zhu Zaihou much access to various aspects of social life and enabled him to know about the conflicts and crises of the Ming Dynasty. The corruption of the bureaucrats, the misery of the commoners, the decadence of the imperial laws, and the domestic trouble and foreign invasion caused him to care about the court affairs. That had a great influence on his dealing with state affairs after ascending the throne.

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Dingling of Emperor Shen Zong (Zhu Yijun)
Emperor Shen Zong, Zhu Yijun (1563 - 1620), was the thirteenth emperor of Ming Dynasty. He was the eldest son of Emperor Muzong and was designated as crown prince at the age of six. He succeeded the throne and changed the era name to Wanli at the age of 10 when after Emperor Muzong died. Shenzong died of illness in 1620 AD and was buried in Dingling Tomb, one of the Ming Tombs of 13 Emperors of the Ming Dynasty.

Emperor Shenzong reigned the longest in the Ming Dynasty with 48 years. For the first ten years, he was aided by grand secretary Zhang Juzheng, and the socio-economic development prospered. He was once studious in affairs of the state for a period of time. During the latter years of his reign, however, he became disenchanted with the moralistic attacks and counterattacks of officials, becoming thoroughly alienated from his imperial role.

Qingling of Emperor Guang Zong (Zhu Changluo)
Emperor Guang Zong, also known as Zhu Changluo in Chinese, is the fourteenth emperor of the Ming Dynasty. Zhu Changluo (1582-1620), was a son of Emperor Shenzong. He acceded to the throne in 1620 AD and died of illness only one month later. All of the three major mysteries of the imperial palace of the Ming Dynasty were related to him. As crown prince, he was not favored by Emperor Shenzong, so his position was once very shaky. After 39 years' endurance, he finally took the throne that he had so craved. On the morning of the 30th day after his accession, however, he was found dead in an inexplicable way. Then he was buried in Qingling Tomb in Ming Tombs area.

Deling of Emperor Xi Zong (Zhu Youjiao)
Emperor Xi Zong, Zhu Youjia (1605-1627), was the 15th emperor of the Ming dynasty from 1620 to 1627. Born Zhu Youxiao, he was the Taichang Emperor's eldest son. His era name means "Heavenly opening". In 1627, Emperor Xizong passed away and was buried in the Deling Tomb

Zhu Youxiao became emperor at the age of fifteen, on the death of his father who ruled less than a month. During his reign, it was a period full of national crises with peasant uprising inside the country and invasion outside from Jin army. However, Emperor Xizong took a fancy to the carpentry work, busy with ax, saw and plane all the day. He put all his attention on building small palaces and little carpentry, with not the slightest attention left for national affairs and becoming a "carpentry emperor". He ordered his fifth younger brother Zhu Youjian to be his successor in the imperial edict before his death.

Siling of Emperor Si Zong (Zhu Youjian)
Emperor Si Zong, Zhu Youjian (1611 - 1644), was the sixteenth of Ming Dynasty. He was the fifth son of Emperor Guang Zong. He ruled Ming Dynasty from 1627 to 1644 with the era name of Cong Zhen ("Lofty and Auspicious"). He have generally been somewhat kind to this the 16th and last emperor of the Chinese Ming Dynasty. He reigned for 17 years. In 1644, the army led by Li Zicheng finally broke through defenses of the Ming Dynasty and occupied Beijing. Emperor Sizong hanged himself at the age of 34 and was buried in Siling Tomb.