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Notes on the Geography of China: The Grand Axis of Imperial Beijing: Photo 19

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The massive blocks of the spirit or slab staircases--which are on both the front and back sides of the terrace--weigh as much as 250 tons. They were positioned in winter, when they could be dragged over ice made from water poured for the occasion. The design shows nine singled and doubled imperial dragons chasing flaming pearls through the cloud-filled sky. Similar stairs exist at the Ming Tombs.

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