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About the Capital Chang'an of Han

The Capital of the Western Han Dynasty

Geographical Location: Xi’an, In Shaanxi Province

Period: 202BC-8AD

Excavated from 1956 to the present

Significance: It has clarified the layout and structure of Chang’an(长安Cháng’ān) of the Han Dynasty, and provided important material objects for the study of the history of ancient Chinese capitals.


Construction of the ancient Han capital Chang’an began under Emperor Gao Zu (206-194BC); but it was not until the reign of Emperor Hui Di (194-187 BC), the second Han emperor, that the walls of Han Chang’an were constructed, taking nearly five years to complete.

The walls were composed of rammed earth and stood just over eight meters high with a thickness of sixteen meters. The north wall was 5,950 meters in length, the south wall 6,250 meters, the east wall 5,940 meters, and the west wall 4,550 meters, with altogether 12 city gates on the four sides. The city was divided into 160 smaller walled units or wards. Within each outer city wall there were three gates bringing the total to twelve for all four walls. The city had eight main avenues, each forty-five meters in width.

The most famous three palaces of Han Chang’an are Changle Palace, Weiyang Palace and Jianzhang Palace. Changle and Weiyang palaces cover half of the city area; the former lies in the southeast of the city with a perimeter of about 10 kilometers, and the latter in the southwest of the city with a perimeter of about 11 kilometers.


The Xi’an was called Chang’an in the Han Dynasty. The connotation of “Chang’an” is “a place of permanent peace”. It was not until the prosperous Tang Dynasty that Chang’an became famous both at home and abroad as the largest and busiest international metropolis of that age in the world. Xi’an obtained its present name in 1369. It stands first on the six largest ancient capitals. From the 11 century BC onwards, Xi’an (Chang’an) and its vicinity was established as the capital city by 11 dynasties successively, including the Western Zhou, the Qin, the Han, the Sui and the Tang dynasties. The city’s capital status lasted for 1,608 years.

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