The palace is a complex of buildings, in the center of which is the Wen Temple, which was built with precious materials, including yellow glazed tile was from Jingdezhen in Jiangxi province. It is a total of 70,000 square meters, consisting of three lines.
Within the palace are more than 100,000 cultural relics.
The site of the palace was once the Imperial Central University (Chinese: 總明觀; pinyin: Zǒngmíngguān) in the Liu Song dynasty. Chaotian Palace was first built by the Hongwu Emperor in late 14th century during the early Ming dynasty. It was used primarily by members of the royalty for "veneration of ancestors".
The complex was burnt down during the Taiping Rebellion, and the present buildings were built from 1866 to 1870 when Nanking Academy (Jiangning Fuxue) moved from its former site south of Qintian mountain.