Shaanxi History
Xianyang—the No. 1 Capital City of China


Since 770BC when the State of Qin was established, it had never been hesitant in accumulating national strength and carrying out its eastward expansion. While expanding to the east, Qin moved its capital city eastward to Yongcheng and then Xianyang, the two well-known capital cities of Qin.

  

Site of No.1 Palace of Xianyang City

Yongcheng lies in Fengxiang County, Shaanxi Province. Serving as the capital city for approximately 300 years, Yongcheng was once the mostgorgeous city in West China in the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period. From Yongcheng, the State of Qin flourished and became one dominant power in the entire West China. It also helped lay a solid foundation for the later eastward expansion of the state. Since Duke Linggong of Qin moved the capitaleastward to Jingyang, Yongcheng gradually lost its previous glory as the capital city. But as the former capital, Yongcheng meant so much for the Qin People just as Zhouyuan to the Zhou People, and therefore rulers for generations visited the “Holy Capital” for important rites and sacrificial ceremonies. The site of Yongcheng is situated to the south of the seat of Fengxiang County and north of the Yong River. The city walls form an irregular rectangle, extending 3,300 meters eastward and 3,200 meters southward with a perimeter of about 13,000 meters. It covers an area of about 11 square kilometers with natural rivers and man-made moat surrounding the city. The remained rammed earth wall ranges 1 to 7 meters tall and 3 to 8 meters thick. All the excavated large-scale palace remains, market remains and cultural relics present us a well-developed big city with imposing buildings, advanced business and necessary facilities.


Xianyang had been the capital of Qin for 144 years and played an important role in the entire Chinese history. In Xianyang, Qin fulfilled its grand aim to unify the entire country by annexing all the other six states. It was also praised as the No.1 Capital for its large scale, sound city layout andmajestic constructions.


Historic records and archeological evidence reveal that Xianyang City in the Qin Dynasty nestled both banks of the Weihe River, covering the entire area of the recent Weihe River Valley between Xianyang and Xi’an City. It took advantage of the mountainous terrain and arranged construction complexes in an unsymmetric manner. Due to the transient existence of the dynasty of only 15 years, the city had not expanded as it was planned, otherwise the city wouldhave been of much larger scale.


The capital of Xianyang was not only large but also well-planned. In the city, there was an imperial inner city for the emperor and officials of different ranks and a grand city for ordinary people with plazas, markets, workshops and various gardens. In terms of functions of the buildings, there are palace complex for political purposes situated to the north of Weihe River, including the imperial palace section and palaces of the other six states. On the southern bank of the Weihe River are Zhangtai Palace and Xingle Palace, distributed in the form of the Gemini on the sky. It also houses  the Jimiao Temple for paying sacrifices to heavenly god (formerly known as Xin Palace), Ganquan Palace—the residential palace for the Queen Mother and Epang Palace—the substitute for the imperial palace etc. Various palace complexes are interconnected with corridors, overhead passages and verandas for convenience and security. Since the city was traversed by the Weihe River, a bridge measuring 526.68m long and 13.8m wide was built across the river to connect the southern and northern banks.


Among these palaces, the most renowned is Epang Palace. In 212BC, Emperor Qin Shihuang, feeling that the former palace was too small, ordered the construction of a new imperial palace on the south bank of Weihe River. The palace was intended for official gatherings, ceremonies, governmental conferences and residence for the emperor. To match the intended ambition of the empire, the palace was designed to be as gorgeous and imposing aspossible. As the front hall ofthe new palace, Epang Palace was 750 meters long westward and 116.5 meters wide southward, which could hold more than 10,000 people for official banquet. The hall was surrounded by a plazawhich could hold approximately 100,000 people at the same time. Around the plaza were large flags on top of poles of 12 meters high. In front of the hall were 12 giant figures, measuring 7.2m tall and weighing 120,000kg, made of bronze melt from all the weapons captured throughout the country. After three years, the construction came to a standstill after Emperor Qin Shihuang quitted the world. Later Huhai, the second emperor of the Qin Dynasty, restarted the construction but unfortunately the construction was suspended once again due to the peasant uprising led by Chen Sheng and Wu Guang. In 206 BC, the well-known rebel Xiang Yu conquered Guanzhong Area and set fire to the imperial palace of Qin. The fire lasted for 3 months and Epang Palace was said to be eradicated during this disaster. Recently, you can still find the site of Epang Palace in Gucheng Village, a suburban town west of Xi’an City. It covers about 650,000m2 and a mere baseof a front hall measures as high as 10 meters. Such a large palace was unprecedented in Chinese archeological history and it is the former grandeur of the palace that inspired Du Mu, a great poet of the Tang Dynasty, to put down the well-known poem On Epang Palace, which is one of the rarely found poems describing the grandiose of a building in Chinese literary history.


Site of Epang Palace



   The earliest imperial mural—mural of steeds in Xianyang Palace


Since the 1950s, excavations have been conducted in the remains of the ancient Xianyang City, which revealed 3 palace remains, among which the No.1 site extends 60 meters westward and 45 meters southward with a height of 6 meters above ground level. Originally comprising three floors, the palace, after restoration, is composed of rooms with various functions and rises 17 meters above ground level. On the inner walls of the palace were murals depicting carriages, pavilions, verandas, banquets and gatherings, plant patterns and symmetric patterns. The paintings showed exquisite drawing techniques with simple but vivid sketches, which were impressive for their huge aesthetic value. There were charcoal stoves in the rooms for heating in winter, silo-like cellars for storage and well-designed drainage system outside. All the rooms were well-lighted and had sound ventilation system and well-planned passages. On the doors and windows were bronze animal head appliques and hinges. The entire palace was well-designed with sound layout and exquisite arrangement which made it imposing with gorgeous interior decorations. Archeological excavations prove that the Chinese traditional architectural techniques were perfected in the Qin Dynasty for in the palaces you can find various sophisticated architectural structures such as column and beam structure, high base, wing-like roof structure and the symmetric layout etc. Besides, the archeological technique of inserting brackets between the top of a column anda crossbeam, which greatly influenced later civil construction, had quite possibly been adopted in the Qin Dynasty.



Host:Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Heritage Administration   Address: No.193,Yanta Road,Xi'an City,Shaanxi Province
Undertaker:Shaanxi History Museum   Address:No.91,Xiaozhai East Road,Xi'an City,710061