The reconstructed Danfeng Gate of the Daming Palace
|Established||1 October 2010|
|Type||Archaeological site and history museum|
|Literal meaning||Palace of Great Brilliance|
|Daming Palace National Heritage Park|
The Daming Palace ("Palace of Great Brilliance") was the imperial palace complex of the Tang Dynasty, located in its capital Chang'an. It served as the royal residence of the Tang emperors for more than 220 years. Today, it is designated as a national heritage site of China. The area is located northeast of present-day Xi'an, Shaanxi Province.
The palace was originally known as Yong'an Palace, but was renamed to Daming Palace in 635. In 662, after renovations to the palace, it was renamed to Penglai Palace. In 670, it was named to Hanyuan Palace or Yuan Palace. Eventually, in 701, the name of the palace became Daming Palace again.
At the founding of the Tang dynasty in 618, the Taiji Palace (太极宫), built in the previous Sui dynasty, was preserved as the imperial residence. Its north entrance was the site where prince Li Shimin killed two of his brothers, including the crown prince, at the bloody palace coup known as the Xuanwu Gate Incident in 626. The same year, he was crowned as Emperor Taizong, as his father Emperor Gaozu yielded him the throne and became the retired emperor.
In 632, chancellor Ma Zhou charged that the retired Emperor Gaozu was living in Da'an Palace (大安宮) to the west, which he considered an inhospitable place as it was built on low-lying lands of Chang'an that was plagued by dampness and heat during the summer. According to him, ever since Emperor Taizong moved to the countryside during the summers, his retired father was left behind in Chang'an to suffer in the summer heat. However, his father would always decline any invitation to spend the summer together when Emperor Taizong eventually did invite him. Ever since the bloody palace coup of the Xuanwu Gate Incident in 626, it seemed that father and son had drifted apart to an extent that their relationship never healed.
In 634, Emperor Taizong launched the first construction of the Daming Palace at the Longshou Plateau, to the northeast at the outskirt of the Chang'an city. He intended to build a small-scale summer palace for his retired father, Emperor Gaozu, as an act of filial piety. However, Emperor Gaozu fell ill, and died in 635, and the construction of the palace halted thereafter.
The Tang dynasty underwent rapid development under the diligent rules of Emperor Taizong, and his son Emperor Gaozong. With accumulated wealth in the state treasury, the construction of the Daming Palace into a grand imperial residence became feasible. In 660, Empress Wu, wife of Emperor Gaozong, commissioned the court architect Yan Liben to design the palace, and the construction commenced in 662. With a workforce of over 100,000, major construction was done in a year, which included the grandest building, the Hanyan Hall. On 5 June 663, the imperial family formally relocated from the Taiji Palace into the yet to be completed Daming Palace, which became the new seat of the imperial court and political center of the empire. Upon its completion, it covered almost 4 km2, which was more than 3 times the area of the Forbidden City in Beijing today.
After Emperor Gaozong, two of his sons with Empress Wu were crowned in rapid succession. In 690, Empress Wu took the throne herself as the only empress regnant in the entire Chinese history. She moved the main capital to Luoyang for most of her reign (690-705), during which the Daming palace ceased to be the imperial residence. Upon restoration of the Tang dynasty in Chang'an, Daming Palace was the site of two coups against the powerful Empress Wei in 710, and Princess Taiping in 713, after which came the golden age during the reign of Emperor Xuanzong (712-756). Emperor Xuanzong primarily resided in the smaller-scaled Xingqing Palace, which was expanded from his former mansion as a prince. A narrow walled passage was built to connect the Daming Palace to the Xingqing Palace in its south. Apart from being the centre of administration of the empire, Emperor Xuanzong welcomed many artists, dancers, musicians, and poets, including Li Bai, to the Daming Palace, which boosted vibrant artistic creations. Many performances were staged at the imperial theatre, the Pear Garden, at the inner court of the palace.
After the heydays of Emperor Xuanzong, the Daming Palace largely survived the chaos in An Lushan Rebellion (755-763), during which Chang'an and the palace was temporarily occupied by the rebels. The palace continued to develop in extravagance in the late-Tang period. In 881 rebel leader Huang Chao captured Chang'an and declared himself emperor at the palace, while Emperor Xizong of Tang fled to Chengdu. In the years that followed, the palace was looted and massively destroyed as control of Chang'an was contested and exchanged alternately between the rebelled, military warlords' and the imperial armies. In 904, the remains of the palace was reduced to ground, as the warlord Zhu Wen, who were the de facto ruler, ordered the destruction of Chang'an city, as he compelled Emperor Zhaozong to move the capital to Luoyang in the final years of the Tang dynasty.
Chang'an was renamed and reconstructed in a much reduced scale in subsequent dynasties, and never become the capital again. The site of the Daming Palace at its outskirt were buried underground for over 1000 years, until its rediscovery in 1957.
Layout and function
Beginning from the south and ending in the north, on the central axis, stand the Hanyuan Hall, the Xuanzheng Hall, and the Zichen Hall. These halls were historically known as the "Three Great Halls" and were respectively part of the outer, middle, and inner court. The central southern entrance of the Daming Palace is the Danfeng Gate. The gate consisted of five doorways.
After passing through the Danfeng Gate, there is a square of 630 meters long with at the end the Hanyuan Hall. The Hanyuan Hall was connected to pavilions by corridors, namely the Xiangluan Pavilion in the east and the Qifeng Pavilion in the west. The pavilions were composed of three outward-extending sections of the same shape but different size that were connected by corridors. The elevated platform of the Hanyuan Hall is approximately 15 meters high, 200 meters wide, and 100 meters long. The Hanyuan Hall, where many state ceremonies were conducted, would serve as the main hall for hosting foreign ambassadors during diplomatic exchanges.
The Xuanzheng Hall is located at a distance of about 300 meters north of the Hanyuan Hall. State affairs were usually conducted in this hall. The office of the secretariat was located to the west of the Xuanzheng Hall and the office of the chancellery was located to the east. From this area, the department of state affairs, the chancellery, and the secretariat handled the central management of the Tang empire, which was done in a system with Three Departments and Six Ministries.
The Zichen Hall, located in the inner court, is approximately 95 meters north of the Xuanzheng Hall. It housed the central government offices. For officials, it was considered a great honor to be summoned to the Zichen Hall. Taiye Lake, named after the pond excavated by the Han emperor Wu during the construction of his Jianzhang Palace in the first century BC, is lies to the north of the Zichen Hall. It expanded over 240 mu (40 acres or 0.16 km²) and an island representing the mythical land of Penglai was built within it. The pond and island have been recreated, as have the former gardens. These were based on the historical record, with separate peony, chrysanthemum, plum, rose, bamboo, almond, peach, and persimmon gardens.
The Linde Hall is located to the west of the lake. It served as a place for banquets, performances, and religious rites. It consisted of three halls—a front, middle, and rear hall—adjacent to each other. An imperial park could be found north of the palace complex. The Sanqing Hall was located in the northeast corner the Daming Palace and served as a Taoist temple for the imperial family.
The site of the Daming Palace was discovered in 1957. Between 1959 and 1960, the earliest surveys and excavations of the Hanyuan Hall site were carried out by the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Preventive conservation measures of the Hanyuan Hall site began in 1993. From 1994 to 1996, for the restoration and preservation of the site, numerous surveys and excavations were conducted. The State Administration of Cultural Heritage (SACH) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) drew up and adopted a two-phased plan by 24 July 1995 to safeguard the Hanyuan Hall site. Work on the project started in 1995 by the joint effort of the Chinese government, Chinese and Japanese institutes, UNESCO, and various specialists. Most of the conservation work concluded in 2003.
On 1 October 2010, the Daming Palace National Heritage Park was opened to the public. There are many exhibition halls located throughout the site of the palace complex to showcase the excavated cultural relics of the site.
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