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Daming Palace

The luxurious Daming Palace was one of the three large imperial architectural complexes inside Chang'an (today's Xi'an City of Shaanxi Province) of the Tang Dynasty (618-907): the Daming Palace in the east, Taiji Palace in the west and Xingqing Palace in the south. Of the three, the Daming Palace has the largest scale.

The site is on the Longshou Plateau in the northeast of Xi'an. The palace was first constructed in the eighth year (634) of the Zhenguan reign in the Tang Dynasty. It was originally named Yong'an Palace and renamed Daming Palace in 635, then Penglai Palace after renovation in 662, Yuan Palace in 670 and Daming Palace again in 701. In the following 200-odd years to the end of the Tang Dynasty, emperors all lived in the Daming Palace (except Tang Emperor Xuanzong once lived in the Xingqing Palace), and the palace served as a place for emperors to handle state affairs, receive officials and hold big events such as dress parades. Thus it turned into the national political center.

The Daming Palace covers 12 square kilometers and the city wall is 7.5 kilometers in girth. The city wall is built of rammed earth, the bottom is 10.5 meters wide and the wall foundation is 13.5 meters wide. The palace has nine city gates and within the palace city there are three parallel east-west city walls that divide the palace into three areas. The three areas fall into two parts: the front court and the inner court, according to their functions.

In the palace there were and other great halls while the Hanyuan Hall in front of the palace was the main one. From the site of the Hanyuan Hall one could see its large scale with the Xiangluan Pavilion to its east and the Xifeng Pavilion to its west, both of which were linked to the hall with corridors. In front of the Hanyuan Hall was a wave-shaped "Dragon-tail Road".

The front court has two areas. Along the axis from north to south stand the Hanyuan Hall, the Xuanzheng Hall and the Zihuan Hall, which were collectively called as the Three Great Halls in the history and were the most magnificent architectures in Chang'an. The Hanyuan Hall is the main hall within the Danfeng Gate and is called the outer court. The hall is 11 bays wide and 4 bays, and its east, west and north walls are built of rammed earth. On the southeast is the Xiangruan Pavilion, and on the southwest is the Qifeng Pavilion, which are both connected with the Hanyuan Hall by corridors. There is a relic of a hall where the sovereign discusses state affairs with senior officials each before the two pavilions. More than one hundred meters away from the hall there is the site of the gate, which might have been ruins of a decorated archway. On both sides of the gate, two partition walls run across the palace and in the front is a big square.

The Xuanzheng Hall is about 300 meters to the north of the Hanyuan Hall, and is called the Middle Court, where the emperor held court, conferred titles of nobility on his subjects and announced major policies. The base of the hall is about 70 meters long from east to east, and more than 40 meters wide from south to north. About 130 meters in front of the hall is the Xuanzheng Gate and on the east and west corridors stand several royal office buildings.

The Zihuan Hall is about 95 meters north of the Xuanzheng Hall, being a part of the inner court. It is where emperors discussed state affairs with his ministers, and sometimes held large celebrations. The base of the hall is near 50 meters wide from south to north, but has suffered serious damage.

The inner court is the place where emperors and empresses and imperial concubines lived and entertained themselves. In the central area there was the Taiye Pond, which is also called as the Penglai Pond and divided into the east pond and the west pond, is located at the low-lying place of the northern slope of the Dragon Head Source, and covers a total area of more than 100,000 square meters. A hillock covered with bricks and stones in the pond is the relic of the Penglai Mountain. Originally there were the Taiye Pavilion on the top and cloisters around the hillock.

In the west of the inner court lies the Linde Hall, where emperors held banquets, appreciated dancing and singing performances and received foreign envoys. The base of the hall was built of rammed earth, and its four sides were built by laying bricks or stones. The base is more than 130 meters from south to north, and more than 80 meters from east to west, on which there were three adjoining halls surrounded by cloisters with symmetrical pavilions and storied buildings on both sides.

The palace was a masterpiece of ancient architecture. However, it was finally destroyed after suffering from three wars in 883, 885 and 896 respectively. From 1957 to 1962, the archeological research institute of China Academy of Sciences surveyed and excavated the sites, and in 1984 another major excavation was carried out, focusing on major sites. As a result, the sites of Hanyuan, Linde and Sanqing halls, Lingruan and Qifeng pavilions, Taiye Pond and Penglai Pavilion now can be clearly seen.

Today, the Daming Palace is opened as an important scenic spot for tourists from home and abroad, disseminating the long history and brilliant culture of the Chinese nation. The renovated palace site has many exhibition halls that display the cultural relics unearthed in the site. The State Council proclaimed the Daming Palace as a key cultural relics site under the state protection in 1961, and set up a special storage bureau to manage the cultural relics unearthed in the Daming Palace site.

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