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City Planning First Appeared in Zhou Dynasty


In the Western Zhou Dynasty (1,100-771BC), the relationship between palace and capital city became closer, this is evident from the "Kao Gongji" (Notes on the Inspection of Engineering Work) recording the then planning system of the capital city of Luoyi.

The book says: The Wang Cheng (imperial city) built by artisan was in a square pattern, stretching ninelion each side and each inset with three city gates. Within the city there were nine horizontal streets and nine vertical streets, each wide enough to accommodate nine carts running parallel (the center of the city was a palatial town); set up on the left side of the palatial town was an ancestral temple for worshipping the ancestors of Emperor Zhou; on the right side was a Sheji Altar for worshipping the god of land and the god of grain. In front of the palace was a square called "Wai Chao" (looking outside), and at the back of the palace was a market. 

This fact shows that during the Western Zhou Dynasty, monarchical power had risen above clan and religious authority, which was of important significance in the history of palace. This layout was still adopted in Beijing until the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). This is one of the striking differences between traditional Chinese architectural culture and other architectural systems of the world.

In ancient times, the site of a city was chosen on the basis of geomantic omen, favoring those by rivers or near mountains, so as to avoid drought and flood. Many famous cities like Xi'an, Luoyang, Kaifeng, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Beijing and Nanjing, were all built on this theory. The streets in ancient cities were like grids, on each side of which were shops abustle with people.

Records of theKao Gongjiindicate the city had a symmetrical axis, which is the traditional characteristic of ancient city planning. Besides, water distributing and city greening were paid great attention to in ancient city planning.

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