Monday, December 18, 2006

Protected Sites: Luoyang City from Eastern Han to Northern Wei

Luoyang City Site is located 15 kilometers east to Luoyang City in Henan Province.
Luoyang City was built in the Western Zhou Dynasty (11th century - 771BC) under the command of the Duke of Zhou, hence its name City of Zhou. The city was known as Luoyang during the Warring States Period (475-221BC) for its location at the north bank of the Luo River. Liu Xiu, Emperor Guangwu of the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220), set the capital here in 25. Luoyang had since then become the capital of the Kingdom of Cao Wei, Western Jin and Northern Wei successively for over 430 years. Since the Eastern Han Dynasty and the Wei State lasted much longer than other dynasties, the city was historically known as Han Wei Luoyang City. It was destroyed and abandoned at the end of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534). The Archaeology Research Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Science conducted a comprehensive research and excavation at the site in 1962.

The ancient city was in a shape of irregular rectangle, with the remains of the eastern wall about 3,895 meters long and 14 meters wide, the western wall 4290 meters long and 20 meters wide, the northern wall 3,700 meters long and 25 to 30 meters wide, and the southern wall destroyed and submerged by the Luo River. The city has a perimeter of 14 kilometers, and its wall was 1-2 meters high with the highest point at 7 meters in the northern part. The city wall had 12 gates that connected to the streets inside the city. A total of 24 streets, 20-40 meters wide, were built in the city. According to historical record, each street was divided into three ways, of which the central one was for high officials and the side ways for ordinary citizens. The city was separated into the palace, yamuns, and gardens. Main palace buildings included the southern palace and the northern palace. Record has it that the Deyang Palace, the northern palace built in the Eastern Han Dynasty, had a capacity of over 10,000 and a flight of steps of 2 zhang (1 zhang =3.3 meters). With jade steps and golden columns, it was like the palace on the Moon with pearl shade hanging over its jade gate.

Outside the south gate were the famous Three Yong constructions built according to social etiquette, namely Mingtang, Biyong and Lingtai. This special style of ancient capital construction in China continued to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911). The Mingtang took a square shape, with each side of 240 meters long. Built in the center was a round foundation stone, which had a diameter of 62 meters. As the foundation for the main building, it was designed according to the traditional rule of square sky and round earth and acted as the place for the Son of Heaven to offer sacrifice to gods or ancestors. Important activities presented by the Son of Heaven were held here, including the announcement of political policies, meeting with high officials, sacrificial ceremony, celebrating and awarding ceremony, and official appointment.

Biyong building was for the Son of Heaven to proclaim moral standards. With water circling around the building like walls, Biyong gained the name for its structural style. The building has a shape of a square, with each side measuring 170 meters long. It is surrounded by walls, outside which are water ditches with bridges across them. A number of stone tablets were unearthed during excavations since the late Qing Dynasty, among which the Biyong tablets of the Western Jin Dynasty (265-316) were the most precious ones.

The Lingtai building site was about 80 meters east to the Mingtang. Lingtai, namely the observatory station, had a square shape with each side of about 200 meters. Surrounded by walls on four sides, the building had a high platform in the center, the remnant of which is 8 meters high. Built around the tampered-earth platform was a two-storey platform, with the lower storey constructed into a winding corridor and the upper storey having five buildings on each side. Astronomical observations were conducted up on the high platform while surrounding buildings were used for officials to keep records and carry out astronomical researches. Outstanding scientist Zhang Heng (78-139) of the Eastern Han Dynasty, who was twice appointed as Taishiling (one of the most senior official titles) for over 10 years, led the compilation of several important astronomical books including the Lingxian and invented the armillary sphere, a astronomical observation tool driven by waterpower, and the seismograph.

Outside the city site was the Taixue site, the highest seat of learning in the Eastern Han Dynasty to spread the Confucianism. First built in the 5th year of the Jianwu reign in the Eastern Han, the institution was constructed to an unprecedented scale in Emperor Shundi's reign, with 240 buildings and over 30,000 students. In the 4th reign year (175) of the Jiaping reign, 46 stone tablets were erected in front of the lecture room, on which engraved seven classics, namely Lu Poem, Shang Shu, Zhou Yi, Spring and Autumn Annals, Gongyang Zhuan, Rites, and Analects of Confucius. These tablets, also known as Jiaping Stone Tablets, were the earliest ones built under official order. In the 2nd year of the Zhengshi reign of Cao Wei, another 28 tablets were erected, which were known as Zhengshi Stone Tablets. A number of remnants of these tablets were unearthed in the early years of the Republic of China.

In the northwest corner of the city was the site of Jinyong City built by Emperor Mingdi of Cao Wei. Archaeological excavation and study revealed that the city was actually three small cities connected together. Jinyong City, shaped like the Chinese character , was 1,048 meters long from south to north and 255 meters wide from east to west, covering an area of 260,000 square meters. Leaning on Mangshan Mountain on the north side and a large city on the south, the city had solid walls and was situated in a strategic place. The strongly fortified city acted as the defensive military fortress for Luoyang City. Most deposed emperors and empresses of the Wei and Jin dynasties lived here. During the Western Wei Dynasty (535-557), a large-scale construction work was carried out in the city, with numerous towering buildings scattered all over the city, which shoot up in the sky like clouds when viewed from the ground. Jinyong City gradually fell into disuse after the Zhenguan reign in the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

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