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The Changle Palace

Chang'an (today's Xi'an City in Shaanxi Province) was originally a county neighboring Xianyang on the southern side of Weihe River in the Qin Dynasty (221-206BC). As a communications hub, it later became a strategic place many military commanders scrambled for. Suggested by his talented minister Zhang Liang, Liu Bang established his capital in Chang'an. In 202BC, Han Emperor Gao Zu (Liu Bang) of the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-8AD) constructed Changle Palace on the basis of the Xingle Palace of the Qin Dynasty, and moved the Han capital from Liyang to Chang'an two years later when the Changle Palace was completed.

In Chang'an there were many palaces, of which the Weiyang Palace, Changle Palace and Jianzhang Palace were the three major ones. They were collectively called the Three Han Palaces. The Changle Palace, situated on the southeastern corner of the city, had an almost square plane and was surrounded by a 10,000-meter-perimeter palace wall with a 20-meter-wide wall base. The palace covered an area of about 6 square kilometers, about one sixth of Chang'an City of the Han Dynasty. There were four gates on the four sides of the palace wall. Halls within the palace have already been severely destroyed.

In history, the Changle Palace was also called the East Palace. Famous strategist Han Xin in ancient times was murdered here by Liu Bang's wife Lu Zhi. After Liu Bang died, emperors began to live in the Weiyang Palace and the Changle Palace became the residence for queen mothers. The Changle Palace was the political center of the Western Han Dynasty and it generally consisted of four halls: Changxin Hall, Changqiu Hall, Yongshou Hall and Yongning Hall. The Changle Palace was where Liu Bang, or Emperor Gaozu, handled state affairs. After the founding of the People's Republic of China, the Shaanxi Provincial Government, the archeological department of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the National Cultural Relics Managing Committee, etc., made great efforts to research and excavation work, and made great achievements. Grand architectural sites like Changle Palace, Weiyang Palace, Gui Palace, Bei Palace and Mingguang Palace received continuous preservations and repairs. Many historical relics were excavated from Changle Palace, e.g. a large number of construction materials including rope-line board tiles, pantiles, and eave tiles with cloud patterns or Chinese characters.

Recently a rare offtake was excavated from the site of the Changle Palace. Two conduits, over one meter deep underground, were made of figuline and stretched northward like huge dragons along a 57-meter-long and 1.8-meter-wide offtake. This also shows the superb level of Chinese palace architecture in the Western Han Dynasty from another aspect.

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