HISTORY OF A CITY

Beijing (English) - - FEATURE -

It was rather warm even in the late au­tumn of 1990 when the Bei­jing Gardening and Green­ing Bureau was build­ing apart­ments for its staff mem­bers out­side Youan­men. A relic site emerged when a foun­da­tion was be­ing dug about 70 me­tres (m) north of the Liang­shui River. Con­struc­tion was im­me­di­ately sus­pended. The Bei­jing Cul­tural Relics Re­search In­sti­tute de­ter­mined that the site was part of the city wall of the cap­i­tal city of the Jin Dy­nasty (1115–1234).

The for­mal ar­chae­o­log­i­cal ex­ca­va­tion work was car­ried out about 45 m south of the orig­i­nal con­struc­tion base across a 35-m-wide area. The top­soil was re­moved. Ex­ca­va­tion went about two m deep. It was car­ried out layer by layer with six de­tec­tors, with an ex­ca­vated area of 660 square me­tres (sq.m). The grand fea­tures of the Jin cap­i­tal aquatic facility fi­nally met the world. About 800 years ago, the facility was con­structed across the city wall. It was made of wood, stone, iron, sand­stone and other ma­te­ri­als. As many as 1,800 spikes over one m long, 530 cu­bic me­tres (cu.m) of pre­fab­ri­cated stone struc­tures and over 2,500 sil­ver in­gots were used in its con­struc­tion. Wa­ter flowed through a wa­ter cul­vert made from wood and rock, passed through the city from north to south and flowed into a moat. The unique mu­seum fea­tures the un­der­ground relic site and his­tor­i­cal dis­plays. The relic site pro­vides valu­able ma­te­rial that is use­ful for study­ing the Jin cap­i­tal and an­cient Chi­nese cities.

Cap­i­tal of the Jin Dy­nasty

After Wanyan Liang be­came Em­peror Hail­ing of the Jin Dy­nasty in 1115, he pro­claimed that the cap­i­tal would be moved from Shangjing to Yan­jing, which is now Bei­jing. Wanyan­liang ap­pointed Zhang Hao to com­mis­sion the con­struc­tion of the new cap­i­tal, which was mod­eled after Bian­jing, cap­i­tal of the North­ern Song Dy­nasty (AD 960–1127) in plan­ning and ar­chi­tec­tural style. The city's area was ex­panded in the east, south and west di­rec­tions. Over 1.2 mil­lion peo­ple toiled more than 700 days and nights to com­plete the project. In 1153, the cap­i­tal was moved to Yan­jing, which was re­named Zhongdu at the time.

Zhongdu (Mid­dle Cap­i­tal) be­com­ing the cap­i­tal was the start of Bei­jing's sta­tus as the cap­i­tal of China. Bei­jing now has a history of more than 860 years as the cap­i­tal. Dur­ing the most pros­per­ous pe­riod of the Jin Dy­nasty, its ter­ri­tory reached as far north as the outer Xing'an­ling Moun­tains, east as the Okhotsk Sea and the Ja­pan Sea, south­east as Korea and west as what is now the north­west part of Shaanxi Prov­ince. How­ever, in 1215, the cap­i­tal fell to the Mon­go­lian army, and the city was com­pletely de­stroyed. The rulers of the Jin Dy­nasty moved the cap­i­tal to Luoyang, and Zhongdu was no more. A va­ri­ety of items have been un­cov­ered from the aquatic relic site of the Jin Dy­nasty, in­clud­ing small porce­lain dog fig­ures for chil­dren, in­com­plete sets of chess pieces, bronze mir­rors with han­dles and pat­terns of sea dragons, bro­ken porce­lain bowls, Cizhou kiln porce­lain bowls and even ex­plo­sives.

Build­ing of a Wa­ter­way

Wa­ter is the lifeblood of a city. A wa­ter gate is im­por­tant in­fra­struc­ture. It lets river wa­ter in and out un­der the city wall. Some peo­ple say that the rea­son it is called a wa­ter gate is be­cause peo­ple in an­cient times used to guard the wall like they were guard­ing a gar­ri­son to pre­vent en­e­mies in­vad­ing through the wa­ter cour­ses.

The relic site of the facility is rec­tan­gu­lar, and the long sides run from north to south. It is 5.6 m be­low the sur­face, 43.4 m from north to south and 7.7 m wide at the cen­tre. The in­let and out­let are trum­pet-shaped and have a width of 12 m. The struc­ture in­cludes the stone pave­ment of the wa­ter cul­vert and the resid­ual stone walls on both sides. The facility is a wood-and-stone struc­ture com­monly used in an­cient build­ings with a wooden foun­da­tion made from over 1,800 pieces of cedar wood, each mea­sur­ing 15 cen­time­tres (cm) in di­am­e­ter and one to two m in length, in­serted densely into the ground ver­ti­cally. The part above the ground was carved into a tenon-shaped struc­ture to ac­com­mo­date large, square­shaped cross­bars. Stone slates were put on top of the wood for wa­ter to flow through. The tenon struc­ture con­nects the wooden cross­bars with the un­der­ly­ing wood. The cross­bars are in­ter­con­nected by sil­ver in­got tenons. The cross­bars are sta­bilised with stone slates held in place by iron nails and cedar spikes. The un­der­ly­ing tim­ber pile, wooden cross­bars and stone slabs are closely con­nected to each other to form a uni­fied struc­ture.

The wa­ter gate is set un­der the gate of the city wall to al­low pond wa­ter and rain­wa­ter to flow through to join the Liang­shui River. This wa­ter gate is also the exit of the Jin­shui River in the cap­i­tal. The two rivers meet at the gate.

Es­tab­lish­ment of a Mu­seum

This wa­ter gate is the only wa­ter gate that can be found in the cap­i­tal with a com­plex struc­ture. Its sci­en­tific de­sign, solid struc­ture and mag­nif­i­cent scale make it rather rare. It es­tab­lishes the lo­ca­tion where river flowed out of the cap­i­tal city of Jinzhong and pro­vides a re­li­able phys­i­cal ev­i­dence for study­ing the ar­chi­tec­tural style and wa­ter sys­tem of the past cap­i­tal.

The Peo­ple's Govern­ment of Bei­jing Municipality es­tab­lished the Liao and Jin City Wall Mu­seum at the site. It opened in April 1995. The mu­seum is a mu­nic­i­pal­level cul­tural relics pro­tec­tion site. In June 2001, it was des­ig­nated as a na­tional key cul­tural relics pro­tec­tion site. The mu­seum was built on the site of the Jin Dy­nasty cap­i­tal wa­ter gate and oc­cu­pies 2,500 sq.m of floor space. There are two floors above ground and one un­der­ground. It has per­ma­nent and tem­po­rary ex­hi­bi­tions in the above-ground halls. The an­cient wa­ter gate struc­ture is pre­served in the un­der­ground space.

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