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Western Han
Mingtang Piyong Imperial Ancestral Temple and University

The Mingtang and the Piyong were part of a group of ritual halls that Wang Mang built in the southern outskirts of Chang'an City during the Yuanshi reign (1 AD - 5 AD) of Emperor Pingdi of the Han Dynasty. The site is situated near Datumen Village in the western suburbs of today's Xi'an. The dig was begun in 1975 and a representation of the reconstruction is shown in the sketch above.

Historical documents describe the Mingtang (above) as the temple for the emperors' ancestors. The temple was the site of grand ceremmonies such as makng sacrifices to the ancestors, granting audiences with the emperor, birthday and ritual celebrations, selecting talented persons for positions, granting pensions, and giving awards.

The Piyong was the Imperial College set up by the emperor. It was square-shaped with a great hall with doors on four sides. It was built on a terrace of rammed earth, which was, in turn, enclosed by rammed earth walls. Beyond the walls there was an outer circular moat or ditch with four bridges giving access to the college. A traditional Chinese sayng "You cannot draw squares and circles without norms" means that you need an education to reach higher levels of understanding and skill.

When Wang Mang moved to usurp the throne, he placed greater emphasis on traditional values, rites, and rituals to show that he had the Mandate of Heaven. He combined the Mingtang and Piyong into one grand ediface.

China Index >> Shaanxi History Museum >> Han Dynasty

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Last update: March 2010
© Marilyn Shea, 2010