Nanjing Day 2: The Ming Xiaoling Tomb & the Purple Mountain

Day two continued our exploration of the highlights of Nanjing with a branch out into the nearby greenspaces to view the burial site of the only Ming Emperor not located in Beijing and the open space known as the Purple Mountain.

Flowers line the path up the Purple Mountain
Flowers line the path up the Purple Mountain
With the Muxuyuan station of Nanjing Metro Line 2 located just outside the Ming Xiaoling Scenic Area, accessing the green spaces is far more effortless than experiencing the tomb itself. Outside the station, there are a number of sign-mounted maps that show the layout of the area and you need only follow the crowds walking up the tree-lined route to get on the correct path to the many attractions located here.

The purple mountain area (which isn’t purple nor really a mountain!) has a number of attractions across it, namely:

  • Ming Xiaoling Scenic Area & Tomb
  • Zixia Lake
  • Sun Yatsen Mausoleum
  • Zijin Mountain

Ming Xiaoling Scenic Area & Tomb

The camels line the avenue to the tomb
The camels line the avenue to the tomb
Costing 70 RMB to enter, this Ming Imperial tomb is surrounded by extensive green space including many gardens and landscaped areas. Your ticket grants you entry to the whole area which includes a number of other galleries and museums. This is an extensive space and, if you’re going to explore it all, will probably take you most of the day to do so.

Top tip: Take care not to leave the park by mistake else you’ll need to buy another ticket to get back in (this is fairly straightforward as there are turnstiles or gates at each entry point but take care nonetheless).

The wide path leading to the burial tomb
The wide path leading to the burial tomb
The main entrance is near to the bus station so is easily accessible by public transport. A quick walk across the bridge and you’re surrounded by various flora, including lots of purple flowers (not sure if this is where “purple mountain” comes from?). These meander around the gradual slope of the hill with additional trees and bushes providing a quiet escape from the bustle of Nanjing that you leave below. The narrow paths eventually open out to wide avenues lined with trees and avenues that lead up to Ming Xiaoling’s tomb: one is lined with statues of various animals paying respect to the emperor.

The Ming Tower guards the entrance to the burial mound
The Ming Tower guards the entrance to the burial mound
Before you enter the actual tomb complex, a cafe area serving a range of typical Chinese snacks and light meals (plus tourist-focused stalls) line a square before the small footbridges that lead to the tomb itself. Along the avenue to the tomb, there are a number of map boards in English allowing you to understand what you are seeing before you. Unlike Beijing’s Forbidden City and Summer Palace, this tomb hasn’t been perfectly preserved and a number of the buildings that make it so similar to these other imperial sites are nothing but foundations now: the maps and a vivid imagination are therefore very useful when exploring!

The principal buildings of the tomb are intact including the impressive Imperial Tablet Hall with its tortoise-based stella and the Ming Tower which acts as guardian to the burial mound itself. You can walk across the burial mound which is quite literally a hill you can climb, under which the Emperor and Empress were buried. There is no indication of where they’re buried nor actually anything really to see up here – it does make for a nice walk though!

Some other photos from the visit:

As with Shanghai, Nanjing is somewhere we can’t wait to go back to – there is such a range of activities to do and places to visit, we just couldn’t fit it into a single weekend.

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