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Acts Upon a Stage (Part II)
A Look at Chinese Divine Culture through the History of Chang'an City
Li Xin, PureInsight Net
Daxing City was the largest city in the world in that era. Its area was nearly 84 square kilometers which was 7 times the size of Constantinople, the capital city of the Eastern Roman Empire in the same historical period, and 6.2 times that of Baghdad, the capital city of the Arabic Empire established in AD 800.
First, Old Chang'an City was demolished and the materials were transported to build the new capital. The city was built at an astonishing speed. In Only ten months the main parts of the city, such as the palaces and most of the official buildings, were completed. The other parts, such as markets and residential area for plebeians were also measured and divided. Many captives and prisoners were used as slaves. Farmers also had to serve for the court as laborers.
That farmers serve as laborers for the court is an institution of feudal society in Chinese history. Virtuous emperors would only require farmers to work after the harvest in Autumn and only work between 10 days to a month. As reward, emperors took the responsibility of protecting them against aggression and rescuing them during disasters. However, Yang Guang, the second emperor of the Sui Dynasty, continued to force farmers to excavate the Great Canal while Daxing City was under construction.
The Chinese people believed that every event could be analyzed based on three factors: opportunities of time granted by Heaven, geographical advantages, and unity among the people. Although Daxing City was being built in a propitious location, it is not enough to make the Sui Dynasty flourish. Without the people's support, after only a relatively few years, the Sui Dynasty ended and was succeeded by the Tang Dynasty. Consequently, without enjoying any of the fruit of their labor and only playing in a short drama of themselves, the Sui left behind a great stage for the Tang in Daxing.
Contrary to most other dynasties, Tang did not demolish the capital city of the former dynasty, instead, Daxing was still the capital but the name was changed to Chang'an, which means long peace and harmony.
The Tang Dynasty flourished greatly under the just rule of Li Shimin, the second Tang emperor, who was the real founder of the Tang Dynasty and was considered to be the wisest emperor with great virtue in Chinese history. Chang'an City boomed and the population increased greatly. People flooded to Chang'an to witness its grandeur from all over the world. By then, the large empty area of the city was filled and the whole city was nearly completed.
As most of other capital cities in Chinese history, Chang'an City was also a synthesis of the physical and spiritual aspects of civilization and it is the best example. People in the city not only built the physical form of their city, but also used their ideas from mythology to guide their design of the city: the structure of the city reflected the meaning of myths. In Chinese history, there never was any special city planner or urban designer. This huge city was carefully designed according to the Book of Changes and the Buddhist view of the universe.
Yin-Yang and Eight Triagrams according to the Book of Changes
The Book of Changes is an ancient Chinese book of divination dating from the Zhou dynasty (1100 B.C.-221 B.C.). The Taiji is the symbol of the Tao School, popularly known in the West as the "yin-yang symbol." Taiji evolves into the Eight Triagrams. The Eight Triagrams is a prehistoric diagram thought to disclose the changes of the course of nature. Eight Triagrams multiplied by Eight Triagrams is 64 changes. Each of them has a meaning.
The Relationship Between the Site of Chang'an City and Divinatory Symbols
The image above shows that the site of Chang'an City had a gentle downward slope from the southeast to the northwest. According to the geographical altitude, it could be divided into 6 levels. After calculations using Book of Changes, each level corresponds to one of the 64 changes. From the best to the worst, the order of each level in the area was ascertained, then the function of each area was decided by the virtue reflected from the meaning of each change.
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