Chang An 长安, The City of Eternal Peace Part. 3 The Daming Palace
The Daming Palace "Palace of Great Brilliance" would serve as the royal residence of the Tang emperors for more than 220 years. Before the construction of this Tang era palace, the former royal residence of the Emperors was the Taiji Palace-City (太极宫), which was built in the previous Sui dynasty.
In 632, officials informed Li Shimin, the Taizong Emperor of Tang that his father- the retired Emperor Gaozu was living in Da'an Palace (大安宮) to the west, which was reported to be inhospitable (as it was built on low-lying lands of Chang An that was plagued by dampness and heat during the summer.) According to the report, every year while the Taizong Emperor was away, his retired father suffered in the summer heat.
Plan of Tang Chang An and Tang Daming Palace preserved on stone stele of 1080
However, his father would always decline any invitation from Emperor Taizong to spend the summer together. Ever since the bloody palace coup of the Xuanwu Gate Incident in 626 where the Taizong Emperor- then only as a Prince assassinated his two brothers (including the then crown prince) and forced his father to retire, it seemed that father and son had drifted apart to an extent that their relationship never healed.
In 634, Emperor Taizong launched the construction of the Daming Palace at Longshou Plateau to the northeastern flank of the city as a new summer palace for his retired father, as an act of filial piety from child to father. However, his father grew ill and never withnessed the palace's completion before his death in 635. Construction halted thereafter during the rest of Taizong's reign until the time of his successors. Taizong's son, Emperor Gaozong and his wife the future Empress Wu would finish the construction of the massive palace and turn it into the center of political power in the Tang dynasty.
Empress Wu shadowed her husband- Emperor Gaozong during his reign as emperor, and whenever he would succumb to deep sickness (including coma) Wu would habitually step in and grasp the reins of the state as regent. Wu commissioned court architects to design the palace in 660 and construction commenced once again in 662. In time, she would also shadow rule through two of her sons before finally doing away with the farce and declare herself the official Empress.
In 663, the construction of the palace was completed under the reign of Emperor Gaozong. Gaozong had launched the extension of the palace with the construction of the Hanyuan Hall in 662, which was finished in 663. On 5 June 663, the imperial family began to relocate from the Taiji Palace in central Chang An into the yet to be completed Daming Palace, which became the new seat of the imperial court and political center of the empire. The entire complex was distinguished by its trapezoid shape, with the northeastern end folding into the otherwise rectangular shape of the complex resembling the tail fin of an airplane- like the rest of Chang An, the main entrance to the complex is located in the south.
The massive courtyard of the Tang Daming Palace itself was something still astounding to the modern mind, boasting an area of roughly 120 Hectares (of the 350 Hectares Palace), this square of the outlying trapezoidal palace alone was larger than the modern Tienanmen Square, itself being one of the largest squares in the modern world. The Daming Palace was also 4.5 times the size of the Forbidden City.
IMPERIAL PALACE COMPLEX OF CHANG AN
After passing through the Danfeng Gate, there is a square of 630 meters long which ended at the Hanyuan Hall. The entire square was roughly 120 Hectares (of the 350 Hectares Palace), this square of the outlying trapezoidal palace alone was larger than the modern Tiananmen Square, itself being one of the largest squares in the modern world. The elevated platform of the Hanyuan Hall is approximately 15 meters high, 200 meters wide, and 100 meters long. The Hanyuan Hall, where many state ceremonies were conducted, would serve as the main hall for hosting foreign ambassadors during diplomatic exchanges. The hall was also the place where important national ceremonies and celebrations were held.
The Zichen Hall, which was located in the inner court, housed the central government offices. For officials, it was considered a great honor to be summoned to the Zichen Hall. The north part of Daming Palace was the garden areas for living and recreation. Linde Palace, located in the northwest, was the biggest attached palace. It was the place where emperors held banquets and received ambassadors.
Built in rammed-earth construction, the site measured 130 m (142 yards) long and over 80 m (87 yards) wide. An imperial park could be found north of the palace complex. At the back of the great palace was a circular artificial lake which had an island and a pavilion- palace on it.
The Taiye Lake 太液池, also known as the Penglai Pool, is north of the Zichen Hall. It had an island representing the mythical land of Penglai was built within it. The former gardens that surround the pond and island have been recreated, based on the historical record, with peony, chrysanthemum, plum, rose, bamboo, almond, peach, and persimmon gardens.
The name itself- which meant: "Great Liquid Pool" is a poetic homage to a graceful artificial lake first excavated by emperor Wu of Han in the 1st century BC as part of his Jianzhang Palace. Interestingly, the Tang Taiye Lake would be homaged by the Jin Emperors and Kublai Khan himelsef and when they created an artificial lake in northern Beijing which was called Taiye Lake.
The Sanqing Hall was located in the northeast corner the Daming Palace and served as a Daoist temple for the imperial family. The rulers of Tang advocated Taoism and considered Lao Zi, founder of Taoism, to be their ancestor. Both Lao Zi and the Tang Emperor were born with the surname of Li~
Therefore, series of Daoist temples and palaces were constructed in this court. The early Tang Emperors were not only great proponents for Buddhism but also saw themselves as Daoist patrons as well. We will cover in detail later about the various temples in Chang An in the following chapters.
CHANG AN TOPICS
PART 1: CHANG AN OVERVIEW
PART 2: LAYOUT AND CITY WALL
PART 3: DAMING PALACE
PART 4: GARDENS & POOLS
PART 5: A CITY OF TEMPLES
PART 6: WESTERN CHANG AN MARKET
PART 7: EASTERN CHANG AN LEISURE
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