AN­CIENT BEI­JING

Beijing (English) - - CONTENTS -

In 1267, Kublai Khan (1215–1294) or­dered Liu Bingzhong (1216–1274, a politi­cian and lit­ter­a­teur) to build Dadu (lit­er­ally “great cap­i­tal”) cen­tring on the Dan­ing Palace (to­day’s Qionghua Is­land in Bei­hai Park) of the Jin Dy­nasty (1115–1234). Liu, a de­vout fol­lower of Con­fu­cian­ism and gen­eral de­signer of the project, fig­ured out plan­ning for the cap­i­tal ac­cord­ing to prin­ci­ples elab­o­rated in Chi­nese clas­sics— Kao­gong Ji (‘‘records of ex­am­i­na­tion of crafts­man’’) in Zhouli ( Rites of Zhou) and Zhouyi ( Book of Changes). Liu spent 26 years com­plet­ing the new cap­i­tal for the Yuan Dy­nasty (1271–1368).

Fac­ing south, Dadu (also known as Yuan Dadu) fea­tured three “square cities”: the im­pe­rial palace, im­pe­rial city and outer city. The cap­i­tal re­sem­bled a north–south rec­tan­gle with a 30-kilo­me­tre perime­ter. Clearly de­mar­cated streets and blocks took on the shape of a chess­board, which can still be glimpsed from streets and hu­tong (al­leys) in to­day’s Bei­jing. Dadu, one of the most fa­mous cities in the world at that time, had mag­nif­i­cent palaces, el­e­gant gardens and parks, and well-ar­ranged streets, with ex­quis­ite stone carv­ings and fres­coes.

Dadu’s lay­out was or­derly and sym­met­ri­cal, out­per­form­ing that of any other cap­i­tal in the Chi­nese his­tory. De­spite the col­lapse of the Yuan Dy­nasty, Dadu’s in­flu­ence con­tin­ued. Ming Dy­nasty (1368–1644) rulers re­con­structed the cap­i­tal, and Qing Dy­nasty (1644–1911) rulers con­tin­ued with this re­con­struc­tion, bring­ing about great changes. How­ever, the cap­i­tal’s ba­sic out­line and struc­ture was main­tained.

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