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Notes on the Geography of China: Beijing: Ming Tombs: Photo 25

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The tombs were originally built very quickly--most in less than six months. The underground parts were made of stone, to last for eternity. Not so the sacrificial halls and soul towers. The Qing emperors took care of them, at least at the beginning, when they were concerned about proving their own legitimacy. Since then, decay has brought the above-ground parts close to dissolution. Once again, if a monument is in good shape, it's probably a reconstruction: bright and shiny Changling, for example, was rebuilt in the 1950s.

Recommended reading: Ann Paludan, The Imperial Ming Tombs, Yale, 1981, and Wang Boyang, Ancient Chinese Architecture: Imperial Mausoleums and Tombs, Springer-Verlag, 1998.

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