Site of Xanadu

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Xanadu was the capital of Kublai Khan’s Yuan dynasty in China, before he decided to move his throne to the Jin dynasty capital of Zhōngdū, which he renamed Dàdū, present-day Beijing.

Shangdu (Xanadu) was visited by the Venetian traveler Marco Polo in about 1275 and was destroyed in 1369 by the Ming army under Zhu Yuanzhang.

The layout of the capital is roughly square shaped with sides of about 2,200m it consists of an “outer city”, and an “inner city” in the southeast of the capital which has also roughly a square layout with sides about 1,400m, and the palace, where Kublai Khan stayed in summer.

The palace has sides of roughly 550m, covering an area of around 40% the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing.

Round this Palace a wall is built, enclosing a compass of 16 miles, and inside the Park there are fountains and rivers and brooks, and beautiful meadows, with all kinds of wild animals (excluding such as are of ferocious nature), which the Emperor has procured and placed there to supply food for his gerfalcons and hawks, which he keeps there in mew.

Of these there are more than 200 gerfalcons alone, without reckoning the other hawks.

The Khan himself goes every week to see his birds sitting in mew, and sometimes he rides through the park with a leopard behind him on his horse’s croup; and then if he sees any animal that takes his fancy, he slips his leopard at it, and the game when taken is made over to feed the hawks in mew.

The site location and environment of the Site of Xanadu together with its urban pattern demonstrates a coexistence and fusion of nomadic and farming cultures.

The combination of a Han city plan with the gardens and landscape necessary to the Yuan dynasty’s Mongolian lifestyle at Xanadu resulted in an outstanding example of urban layout that illustrates a significant stage in human history.

The large archaeological site now generally covered by grassland preserves the overall urban plan and city site of Xanadu as built and used in the 13th and 14th centuries.

Wall lines of the Palace City, Imperial City and Outer City which together display the traditional urban planning of central China and arrangements for Mongolian tribal meetings and hunting can be clearly perceived, as can mounds indicating palace and temple buildings, some of which have been excavated, recorded and reburied.

The remains of the neighborhoods outside the gates, Tiefan’gan canal and the tomb areas, all within their natural and cultural environment.

Xanadu is now little more than a vast green field extending for hundreds of kilometers.

From the air, the outlines of former buildings can still be seen, but once on the ground, only the sketch of the outer wall that protected the city is now visible, and only if you are truly looking for it.

The outline of the wall is covered in grass and soil for most of its length, and it can be easily confused with a small hill.

There is now a low wall of stone that marks the area where Kublai Khan’s palace was situated.