The Sacred Way is a feature seen at a number of imperial burial sites in China. Perhaps the best known of these is the Sacred Way leading to the Ming Tombs compound in the environs of the Chinese capital Beijing.

Also known as the Divine Road the Sacred Way symbolises the path leading to the heavenly realms. The Emperor was considered to be the Son of Heaven and accordingly is believed to have arrived at his kingdom at birth from the heavenly realms. Therefore it was believed that he would return to heaven at his death and that the Sacred Way would lead him to the heavens.

This beautifully laid out pathway is flanked on either side by immense statues made of stone which are an indispensable feature of this kind of pathway. The first set of stone statues features figures of humans, namely generals, civil officials and other officials of merit. These are followed by 24 figures of animals, including real and mythical creatures. These animals include the elephant, camel, lion, qilin (a divine creature), xiezhi – a mythical unicorn-like animal – and the horse. You will find four statues of each of these auspicious animals, with two squatting figures and two in standing postures.

Each of these animals has a distinct significance. The elephant and camel represent the vast territory of the Emperors’ kingdom. The lion symbolises powerful solemnity, a representation of the monarchs’ awesome majesty. The qilin is considered to be an auspicious creature while the xiezhi is thought to dispel evil influences. On the other hand the horse was the transport of choice of the monarchs and therefore was considered to be an indispensable asset for the Emperors.

Another significant feature at this site is the Stele Pavilion which features an ornamental white marble pillar at each corner. Within this pavilion you will see a huge figure of a tortoise carrying an immense tablet of stone. These impressive features make the Sacred Way a splendid attraction for visitors.

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Uditha Dharmawardhane is a travel writer who writes under the pen name Roland Lefevre. He specializes in creating features on leisure as well as business travel destinations across the globe.