Xanadu (Shang-tu)

Xandu, a smaller city than Beijing, was the Mongols summer capital. The capital, located in inner Mongolia, was also referred to as K’ai-p’ing by Qublai. Qublai was Genghis (Chinggis) Khan’s grandson. ┬áThe summer capital was built to symbolize Qubilai as a ruler rather than as an invader. This site was also symbolic to Qublai for personal reasons. At this site he was named as the Great Khan by the quriltai. The quriltai was an assembly of princes, princesses, and military commanders. They were called to choose and thus name the Great Khan. They also deliberated on state matters.

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Symbolic meanings aside, Xandu was built on Chinese agricultural lands. Xandu was divided into three ad hoc sections. The first section, or the outer section, was where the majority of the citizens lived. Buddhist temples were also located in the residential outer section. Qublai’s palace was in the second section along with the government buildings. The hunting preserve was in the third section. The hunting preserve was an uncommon feature of the capital. The preserve had meadows, woods, streams and small lakes. Big game was aplenty like lions, tigers and leopards. Falconry was practiced as well. Qublai’s palace was made of marble and was covered in magnificent artwork. The palace walls were gilded and painted. The city was abandoned in 1430.

In 2012, Xanadu was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List. It was added because the site represents a cultural fusion of Mongolian nomadic and Chinese agrarian civilizations. Additionally, from this site Tibetan Buddhism spread.

Xanadu remains, author Sun Xiaoming