The Sacred Way

The Sacred Way is the road that leads to Heaven they say. It also leads to the Ming Tombs. In all it is about 2-1/2 miles long, a portion of which is lined with 18 pairs of marble statues. The statues serve as a kind of honor guard for the nearby tombs.
Because we had already been to the Ming Tombs, we walked out on this part of the Sacred Way. This road was the route the emperors travelled annually to honor their ancestors who were buried nearby.

Here our guide, Jesse, points out the marker which shows the road and the statues alongside.

At one end of the road are statues of government officials, 6 pair in all.

Then come the animals, facing each other across the road in pairs. Each breed has a pair of statues standing, and then lying down.

This guy's called a qilin, an imaginary animal with a scaly body, deer hooves, a cow's tail, and horns.

Here are the standing and reclining elephants.

This is the mythical xiechi, from the feline family, with a mane and a horn on its head:

and lastly, the lions.
There are 36 statues in all, 12 human and 24 animal. Each carved from a single piece of rock, they were placed here from 1436 to 1438.
Beyond the animals are a pair of these hexagonal columns called Wang Zhu. They're carved with cloud designs on their sides.

A look back at some of our group, as we continue down the Sacred Way, away from the tombs

and approach the Stele Pavillion of Divine Merits, first constructed of wood in 1435, but rebuilt of stone in the late 1700's.

It's flanked by two columns like this one.

Inside the Pavillion, you walk by this oversize marble tortoise, who carries a giant tablet on his back.

Finally, a marker indicating that this is an official National Tourist Attraction.

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