The Eastern Qing Tombs (Chinese: 清东陵; pinyin: Qīng dōnglíng), located 125 kilometers northwest of Beijing, are among the finest and largest extant Mausoleum complexes in China. Altogether 5 emperors (Shunzhi, Kangxi, Qianlong, Xianfeng, and Tongzhi), 15 empresses, 136 imperial concubines, 3 princes, and 2 princesses of the Qing Dynasty were buried here. Surrounded by Changrui Mountain, Jinxing Mountain, Huanghua Mountain, and Yingfei Daoyang Mountain, the Tombs take up a total of 80 sq km of space.
The centre of Eastern Qing Tombs is Xiaoling, the tomb of Emperor Shunzhi (1638-1661, the first Qing emperor to rule China), and the first to be buried there in 1663, with Zhao Xiling (Empress Dowager of Emperor Shunzhi), Jingling (Emperor Kangxi), Huiling (Emperor Tongzhi) in east side and Yuling (Emperor Qianlong), Dingling (Emperor Xianfeng), Ding Dongling (Dowager Empress Cixi and Empress Ci'an) in west side.
Of all the tombs, Xiaoling is the biggest and most elaborate, standing as the focal point of the entire structure. The grandeur of this tomb may be attributed to its having been the first sepulcher constructed for a member of the royal family of the Qing Dynasty. A sacred way with guardian figures, and the entrance to the tomb itself is preceded by a large stele pavilion and marble bridges over a stream. To the right, There are the buildings used for preparation of sacrifices. Inside the gate, halls to the left and right were for enrobing and other preparations, as usually does each Hall of Eminent Favor. At the rear, where ceremonies in honor of the deceased took place. Behind, a doorway allows access past a stone altar to a steep ramp leading to the base of the Soul Tower.
Jingling is the tomb of Emperor Kangxi, and is surprisingly modest given that he was possibly the greatest Emperor of the Qing Dynasty which is in keeping with what is known of his character. The sacred way leading to the tomb has an elegant five-arch bridge; the guardian figures are placed on an unusual curve quite close to the tomb itself, and are more decorated than those at earlier tombs.
Yuling, the tomb of Emperor Qianlong (the fourth emperor of the Qing Dynasty), may be the most splendid one of all royal tombs in Chinese history. Yuling has the finest tomb chamber, a series of rooms separated by solid marble doors, with its walls and arched ceilings engraved with Buddha figures and more than 30,000 words of Tibetan scripture. The 3-ton doors themselves have reliefs of bodhisattvas (beings on the road to enlightenment) and the four protective kings usually found at temple entrances.
Another tomb especially worth mentioning is Ding Dongling, the tomb of Empress Dowager Cixi, the woman who ruled China behind a curtain for 48 years. The main hall contains reproductions of pictures produced in 1903 by Cixi's photo studio within the Summer Palace. Everywhere there are reminders of the Forbidden City, such as the terrace-corner spouts carved as water-loving dragons. The interior has motifs strikingly painted in gold on dark wood, recalling the buildings where she spent her last years. There are walls of carved and gilded brick, and superbly fearsome wooden dragons writhe down the columns.
Zhao Xiling (Empress Dowager of Emperor Shunzhi) stands conspicuously outside the imperial mausoleum’s vermilion wall, to the left of the entrance. Xiaozhuang, the Empress Dowager of Emperor Shunzhi, is regarded as integral to consolidating early Qing Dynasty authority. Without her, there would have been no glorious historical period known as the “Prosperity of the Kangxi Reign.”