What Functions Did Daming Palace Bear?

As people from home and abroad has paid more and more attentions and focus on Chinese ancient history, some important or famous ancient architectures got further research to reflect the history truth of that ancient time. Daming Palace of the Tang Dynasty, located in today’s Xian, is a typical example of the researches. Here is some study about Daming Palace from Professor Du Wenyu who specializes in history of Tang Dynasty.

Section 1 the previous date about Daming Palace

The important historical date to research Daming Palace

The Records of Chang’an (Chang’an Zhi), written by Song Minqiu, is the earliest Records involving the history and geography of Chang’an at present. Later in Qing Dynasty, there were also many books which supplied study material for Professor Du, such as The Records of Counties in Chang’an ( Changan Xian Zhi) written by Dong Zengchen and The Research to the Two Capital Cities of Tang Dynasty by Xu Song. Professor Du took out all information involved in Daming Palace from all these books he can find and compared each by each, trying to find the mistakes in it and truth about it.

Research for the Daming Palace from Japanese scholars

As we all know that we couldn’t avoid the research from Japanese scholars when we talk about Chang’an or Daming Palace. Their study about the Daming Palace mainly is field investigation in the early time, as for the later and present Japanese studies about Daming Palace, they are more comprehensive and detailed, which indeed show their value for reference. However, about the Daming Palace in Japanese studies are mostly keep the old opinions and information while little new findings here. Thus, from both depth and width about the researches about Daming Palace, Chinese scholars have a stronger voice. In spite of that, we can’t deny the Japanese scholars’ effort to Daming Palace’s studies when we cast our eyesight on this legend in Chinese ancient architectures.

Section 2 Professors Du’s findings about Daming Palace

The Qilin Audience Hall

There is no dispute about the location of the Qilin Audience Hall as we can see the relic of it today. The key problem is about its functions. In the previous research and report, the Qilin Audience Hall was always considered as the Palace for entertainment activities, such as royal feasts, dance and music shows and even the horse ranch. There are many Tang poems that mentioned Qinlin Audience Hall as the place for entertainment. However, besides the above functions, Daming Palace also was used as place to do the diplomatic activities and some religious and academic discussion activities. Moreover, the emperor also summoned the officials here sometimes. Anyway, it is not a special place for summoning; it had certain causality: maybe the emperor just called one official because he was right here.

The Wangxian Tai and Wangxian Guan

“Wangxian” means looking for gods; “Tai” means a platform and “Guan” means a temple in Chinese. From the study from Professor Du about Daming Palace, the former record about location of Wangxian Tai is correct which appeared in many historical records. However, it was not just a high platform but a building in the architecture groups in Wangxian Guan. Except for the Wangxian Tai, there was also a platform named Xiangzhen Tai. Thus the Wangxian Guan was supposed to be an architecture groups bearing a certain big scale. That means Emperor Wuzong had built a Wangxian Guan in which there was a high platform called Wangxian Tai, which will help people to correct their wrong ideas about Wangxian Tai and Wangxian Guan.

Two major surveys about the buildings in Daming Palace from Professor’s writings

One is that the names of the buildings are right but locations have problems. Such as Daizhi Yuan, one official’s name in Tang Dynasty, was in quite different location based on some historical records. After deep research, Professor Du holds an idea that there were two Daizhi Yuan in Daming Palace: one was at the east of Three Ministries of Menxia, used for a treat place for the Daizhi officials waiting summoning from the emperor; another one was beside Guangshun Gate, used for the living place for the Daizhi officials when the emperor dealt the national issues at Yanying Hall but not the so-called resting or living place for the royal members. About the Shaoyang Yuan where the princes lived was disputed before, too. Actually there were two Shaoyang Yuan in the history with one at east and another one at west.

Another survey is that some buildings indeed existed in the Daming Palace but weren’t mentioned in the former historical writings. For example, Mingfu Yuan is the special place for the queens to have their activities. In some historical records mentioned that the Empress Wu Zetian had entertained her relatives in Court that normally meant to the place for emperor and officials to discuss national affairs, which really confused not only common people but also Professor Du before. After studied it by details, Professor Du found that the Court actually means court in Mingfu Yuan, mainly held the activities of the womenfolk of the imperial household.

The plans of Daming Palace drafted by Du Wenyu

The plans Professor traced out based on the former date has several supplement, looking more visual, more detailed. Firstly, it has corrected some mistakes in former scholars’ plans which keeps consistence with the book of Mr. Du; secondly, it has add some buildings which didn’t occurred on the previous plans; thirdly, it has covered all buildings of Daming Palace, not only imperial architectures but also including court and military as well as religious buildings. Fourthly, Professor Du’s plan is in more details, for example, he has marked that the doors’ location of Hanyuan Audience Hall, Xuanzheng Audience Hall and Zichen Audience Hall. Besides, he combined the plans with some records which help readers to understand the rules of Tang Dynasty better.

Mentioned the plans, we know that it can’t show the height of these buildings. So the Professor Du has a specific explanation about the height of these buildings. In Tang Dynasty, most of architectures were single-layer or two-layer and three-layer at most. But we can see many historical records that the Wangxian Tai was over hundred feet tall, definitely more than two or three layers. Actually, that is because the rammed earth base was quite high and today we can see the relic of Wangxian Tai’s rammed earth base is very high.

Section 3 Research about Palace Politics of Tang Dynasty

From Mr. Du’ studies, people need to research the palaces firstly if they want to know the palace politic. The systems of Tang were most comprehensive in Chinese ancient time, which posed a great influence to the later dynasties. Each building had been granted with special function, from which we can know the empire’s systems, politic rules and its operation things as well as its architectural planning and composition. In the view of Professor Du, there are three systematical buildings regarding Tang’s court architectures.

The first one is emperor-centered. For instance, Hanyuan, Xuanzheng and Zichen Audience Halls were on the axle wire, surrounding closely the emperor, with other organization been the both sides. The second one is prince-centered. In ancient time, the crown prince always meant a lot to the whole country then it had involved a special system. In the earlier Tang time, the prince would live in Eastern Palace where existed a miniature Court organizations. Some time prince need to supervise and deal with the court affairs when the emperor were out of Court. It was a clue to study Tang’s politic, unfortunately showed gloomy in Daming Palace because Gaozong Emperor had lived in Luoyang when the Daming Palace had been built. The last one is queen-centered, also taking female host as center. Queens always had born a quite important position. In many dynasties, there were phenomenons that queens or mother queens snatched the emperor’s right and controlled the Court their selves. That is not occasional which the result of traditions and systems. Thus, there was Mingfu Yuan in Daming Palace, where the special court had been opened for queens. That gives people to understand how important status these queens had in ancient times.

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