Taoist tem­ple re­sem­bles Bei­jing’s im­pe­rial palaces

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA -

Ar­chae­ol­o­gists ex­ca­vat­ing the ru­ins of China’s largest Taoist tem­ple have found that its struc­ture bears a strik­ing re­sem­blance to that of palaces in Bei­jing’s For­bid­den City, the for­mer im­pe­rial res­i­dence. Ex­perts have cleared 5,000 square me­ters of the site at Longhu Moun­tain, Jiangxi prov­ince, where the main build­ing of the Great Shangqing Palace was lo­cated be­fore it was de­stroyed by a fire in 1930.

Hu Sheng, di­rec­tor of the ar­chae­o­log­i­cal pro­ject, said the palace was re­built dur­ing the Ming Dy­nasty (1368-1644). It was built based on the Palace of Heav­enly Pu­rity and the Palace of Earthly Tran­quil­ity in the For­bid­den City, which were oc­cu­pied by em­per­ors and em­presses re­spec­tively, ac­cord­ing to Hu.

Ex­perts have said the tem­ple’s ar­chi­tec­ture re­sem­bles the im­pe­rial palaces.

The orig­i­nal Taoist tem­ple was built as early as the Song Dy­nasty (960-1279) at the foot of the moun­tain. It was later ex­panded and be­came an im­pe­rial palace for Taoist prac­tice through the Yuan Dy­nasty (1271-1368), and ex­pe­ri­enced sev­eral rounds of ren­o­va­tion un­der the or­der of em­per­ors dur­ing the Ming and Qing dy­nas­ties.

In ad­di­tion to the struc­ture, the yel­low­green tiles un­earthed at the site are the same as those used on the Ming Im­pe­rial Palace in Nan­jing, Jiangsu prov­ince.

Other im­pe­rial sym­bols were found at the tem­ple, such as the use of an­i­mal and dragon mo­tifs on the roof and eaves.

A bronze bell found ear­lier at the moun­tain weighed 4,999 kilo­grams and dated back to the Yuan Dy­nasty. It was only 500 grams lighter than the one in the For­bid­den City.

Hu said Chi­nese im­pe­rial ar­chi­tec­ture had strict reg­u­la­tions on size, struc­ture, dec­o­ra­tion and use of color. “The find­ings showed that the Taoist palace bears a royal char­ac­ter. It was the high­est Taoist cen­ter in the coun­try,” he said.

Although it was lo­cated on a re­mote moun­tain in eastern China, the Taoist palace was built in the style of of­fi­cial ar­chi­tec­ture in north­ern China, show­ing the close re­la­tion be­tween the im­pe­rial power and Tao­ism, said Cui Guang­hai, deputy di­rec­tor of the Cul­tural Her­itage Pro­tec­tion Cen­ter at Ts­inghua Univer­sity.

He said more im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion is ex­pected to come from the ex­ca­va­tion and re­search on the ru­ins. Ar­chae­ol­o­gists have spent four years on the ex­ca­va­tion. In ad­di­tion to the core palace ex­ca­va­tion, they have sur­veyed 29 his­tor­i­cal sites over a 30-squarek­ilo­me­ter area.

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