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Xanadu – the Rise and Fall of a Dynasty


A bird's-eye view of the site.

Described by Venetian traveler Marco Polo, romanticized by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the historic site known to much of the world by the fanciful name of “Xanadu” has officially joined UNESCO’s World Heritage list.

Located some 20 km northeast of Dundhot in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region, the square-shaped summer capital of Kublai Khan’s Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) is called Shangdu (Upper Capital) by the Chinese.

A portrait of Kublai Khan.

The history of the construction of Xanadu is closely connected with the history of the Yuan Dynasty and Emperor Kublai Khan. Before Kublai Khan became the first Emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, he was the Khan (Mongolian king) of the Kaiping prefecture, and decided to build the Kaiping prefecture government office, which was later to become the Upper Capital of the Yuan Dynasty.

Xanadu was designed by Liu Bingzhong, Kublai Khan’s adviser of Han ethnicity. After four years’ construction, it was completed in 1256.

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