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Room for tomb boom
( 2003-09-12 17:24) (Beijing Weekend)

Newly inscribed as a World Heritage site, the Ming Tombs outside Beijing have been given a new lease of life as a major tourist draw.

The Spirit Way (Sheng Dao) has been renovated and the former asphalt road has been replaced by a grey stone road which is closer to the original style of what it was in the imperial compound.

From now on, no traffic will be allowed to go along the stone to the Spirit Area.

As one approaches the Ming Tombs' area via the Spirit Way (Sheng Dao) or Avenue of the Animals, 24 wonderful Ming Dynasty sculptures of animals appear, each carved out of a single large piece of stone.

There are 12 pairs of animals. Beyond the animals are 12 stone carvings of four fierce looking soldiers, four civil officials, and four scholars.

Equally important for some caught-short visitors, several top-line toilets have been opened to the public.

In the lobby of these super toilets, you'll see pot flowers and trees.

According to staff of the Ming Tombs Scenic Spot, many more emperors' tombs will be renovated in the next few months and some of them will open to the public.

The Ming tombs compound has 13 mausoleums for emperors of the imperial Ming Dynasty (1368-1644).

The first tomb was built in 1409 and the last one was built 200 years later in the early Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

Entrance fee: 20 yuan (US$2.5) each for Dingling, Changling or Zhaoling; 10 yuan (US$1.2) for students.

To get there: take any Tour Bus No 1 (You 1) or No 5 (You Wu) at Qianmen. Or take bus 345 at Deshengmen to the town of Changping and then change bus 314 to Dingling.

For more information: 6076-1156 6076-1334 (Chinese only).

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