As an imperial palace with a large scale of buildings constructed in the early Tang Dynasty (618AD-907AD), Daming Palace at that time was situated in the northern part of Chang'an City, namely Xi'an, which was the capital of the Tang Dynasty. Just like all the other traditional Chinese architectures, Daming Palace was constructed facing the south, with a grand atmosphere and occupying a commanding position. This palace was first built in the year 634AD, the eighth year of Emperor Taizong, who was the second emperor of the Tang Dynasty. At that time, it was named Yong'an Palace and Yong'an means 'forever safety' in Chinese. The emperor built this palace as the summer palace for his father, who however died before the whole project was finished. Then the next year the palace was renamed Daming Palace. After that the name of this palace was changed twice, and not until the year 705AD was the name finally changed back to Daming Palace again.
A Burnt House in the Daming Palace
This palace covered a large area at that time with a lot of terraces. It was 2.5 kilometers from north to south and 1.5 kilometers from east to west, with eleven palace gates in total. The whole palace was as large as 3.2 square kilometers. The main gate of the palace was Danyang Gate and the main hall was Hanyuan Hall, on the north of which was Xuanzheng Hall, with the prime minister and other high rank officials' offices, the imperial academy and the hall preserving historical materials on its two sides. In addition, there were another more than thirty constructions, including annex buildings, pavilions, gardens and temples. From the reign of Emperor Gaozong, the third emperor of the Tang Dynasty, Daming Palace became the political center of the Tang Dynasty. In spite of wars and fires in history, the ruins of Hanyuan Hall, Linde Hall, Sanqing Hall, Lingluan Attic, Xifeng Attic, Taiye Pool and Penglai Pavilion could still be seen today.
In the history, the area of Chang'an used to be the symbol of wealth, honor and beauty. In the West Han Dynasty (207BC-25AD), this area was the buffer zone between the capital city and Bashang Plateau, which was the most important strategic military fortification of the Han Dynasty, and it was also the only way leading to the central part of China. This piece of land was on the southern slope of Longshouyuan Montain, and the fortifications built here protected the capital city. This place had also been considered to be a valuable land with a good geomantic omen by the ancient Chinese people for hundreds of years. From the Western Han Dynasty to the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420AD-589AD), rich people and high rank officials always built their tombs here, while the poor and the other common people never had the opportunity to make use of this land. Later in the Sui Dynasty (581AD-618AD), this place was listed as the private property of the royal family. The whole area was 27 kilometers from east to west and 23 kilometers from north to south. Royal gardens, recreational constructions, pavilions, lakes, and attics were all built inside, making it a paradise of the royal family members.
After the founding of the Tang Dynasty in 618AD, it became much more important in politics, because Daming Palace was built here. Daming palace has been considered to be a masterpiece in the history of Chinese architecture. The name of the palace---Daming, in Chinese means great sunshine, symbolizing the prosperity of the Tang Dynasty. However, two hundred years later during Emperor Xizong's reign, this splendid palace was destroyed by fire in wars. The prosperity and the beautiful sceneries disappeared in the fire, but its great historical value still exists today. Even though many of the original architectures in the Daming Palace are no longer existed, but the original city walls and the city gates have been very well protected. The great foundations of Hanyuan Hall, Linde Hall, Sanqing Hall, Dafu Hall and Danfeng Gate are still standing there today, more than 10 meters above the ground. They still look wonderful and great. When visitors come to visit this area, facing the ruins of the original great palace, they will have a special feeling and understanding of the prosperity of the Tang Dynasty.
In the Song (960AD-1279AD) and Yuan (1271AD-1368AD) Dynasties, big lakes, high trees and great forest were also distributed here. Kublai Khan, the founding emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, used to live in this area. Later Anxi Palace, which was the mansion of the provincial governor, was constructed here. Marco Polo also wrote something about this place in his travelling book, and he described it in this way, 'this place used to be the imperial palace of the Tang Dynasty, and nowadays it is still quite beautiful and serene. Anxi Palace has been founded here and the architectures are so magnificent, with decorations of lacquers, paintings, golden leaves, silver adornments, and numerous marble stones. There are even precious birds and rarely-seen beasts raised inside.'
After the Yuan Dynasty, this area gradually became less and less prosperous, small villages and farmlands were distributed. Without the original prosperity, the old Daming Palace and the great past of this piece of land were forgotten little by little by many of the Chinese people.
It is said that in the Tang Dynasty when the workers were constructing the Daming Palace, an ancient bronze mirror was dug out from the ground. Then Wei Zheng, a famous official from the court found that it was actually a precious treasure of Qinshihuang, a great emperor who united China in 221BC and set up a large country. This mirror was believed to be quite powerful and magical, because people could see clearly the inside of their bodies from it. More importantly, the emperor could be able to tell the loyalty of his officials and even the future of his country from this mirror. When the construction of the palace was finished, the mirror was put inside as the most important treasure of the whole palace. Rumors at that time abounded in the capital city that great bright light from Daming Palace could be seen by people living all over the city. However, it is just a legend and still needs to be investigated by experts. But the Daming Palace, which is a typical example of the royal architecture from the Tang Dynasty, could be compared with today's Forbidden City in Beijing, because of its solemn, majesty, elegance and luxury.