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Xanadu – the Rise and Fall of a Dynasty


To the south of the city is the city gate, a double-security gate which was given the name, wengcheng (earthen jar city) owing to its fortified nature and shape. Because this city wall forms a square, with all four sides protected by sentry soldiers on the battlements, and with two gates at the north and south wall, enemies were easily defeated when they tried to break in. Now the wengcheng is under excavation and restoration

The groundsill of citizen’s houses can still be seen clearly. Every house is over 100 square meters in size. This was once the most prosperous place in the country.

But the prosperity could not last. In 1358, the red scarf rebellion army, an uprising force against the Mongol-ruled Yuan Dynasty, set fire to the city and it was destroyed. Archeologists found some stone pillars also melted in the blaze.

The ruins of Daan Palace, the main building in the palace city.

Fortunately, some relics survived including: a 65 centimeter high iron kettle, weighing 250 kilograms, a rarity in China; the primitive irrigation system designed by Guo Shoujing, one of the most famous scientists in Yuan Dynasty, which was the only ancient irrigation work for pastoral land; a palace, civilian houses, tombs and sacrificial relic sites; and four white marble human sculptures excavated from the royal sacrifice site, 35 kilometers northwest of the city.

Xanadu is the best-preserved among the Yuan Dynasty’s capital cities and has lasted the longest. It is the only intact evidence of the rise and fall of the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368), which witnessed the unique fusion of agrarian Han Chinese and nomadic Mongolian civilizations in northern Asia.

Editor: Liu Fang

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