A peerless palace building carries the sadness of Xiang Yu for more than 2000 years, as well as the endless passion and dreams of literati. Now, archaeologists have finally found its exact location, but this is only the beginning – too many mysteries can only be found when the palace is completely exposed to the ground. Anyone who is familiar with history knows that Afang palace was built in the Qin Dynasty more than 2000 years ago. In the process of unifying China, Emperor Qinshihuang drew a palace map of each country he conquered, and imitated a palace on the South Bank of the Weihe River in Xianyang, the capital of Qin, which was called the “palace of six countries”. According to legend, there were 145 kinds of palaces at that time, including the famous Xin palace, Ganquan palace, Xingle palace, Changyang palace and other palaces. In those days, Xianyang palace was full of temples, pavilions, winding corridors and paths, and flowers with deep fields. In the 35th year of Emperor Qinshihuang (212 BC), Emperor Qinshihuang enlisted more than 700000 prisoners to cut and transport wood from Sichuan, Hubei and other places, cut stones from Beishan Mountain, and began to build a larger palace, chaogong, in the Shanglin garden in the south of Wei River.
Chaogong is the famous Afang palace in history. Unfortunately, due to the huge project, the Afang palace was only a palace in the heart of Emperor Qin Shihuang, and he failed to see the completion of his palace. According to historical records, in 210 BC, Qin Shihuang died on the way to the East. The purpose of his trip was to find the legendary Fairy Island and unlock the secret of immortality. After the death of the first emperor of Qin Dynasty, Hu Hai, the second emperor of Qin Dynasty, continued to build the Afang palace until the army of Liu Bang of Han Dynasty entered the customs. After Xiang Yu, the overlord of Chu, led his army into the pass, he moved his hatred to things, and the Afang palace and all its ancillary buildings were set ablaze and turned into ashes. Beacon tower is actually the ancient capital of Xi’an, the site of Qin landscape architecture in the Warring States period. It was once the capital of 11 dynasties in China. Although the sighs of emperors have been lost in history, its profound cultural accumulation still conveys the charm of the past to the world all the time. In the 2nd century AD, the Silk Road started from Xi’an and reached the eastern coast of the Mediterranean. The first impression of Europe about China is related to Xi’an.
More than ten kilometers west of Xi’an, there is a rammed earth platform left over from ancient times, which has long been considered by the world to be the site of the beacon tower (Shanglinyuan No. 2) of Qin Afang palace. Beacon towers are ancient Chinese buildings that convey military information. Restricted by ancient communication technology, ancient people built a beacon tower at intervals along the great wall and the northwest frontier. The beacon tower is full of firewood or animal dung that is easy to smoke after being lit, and soldiers are stationed day and night. If the enemy is found to be invading, the beacon fire will be raised one by one, and the enemy situation will soon spread to the military command area.
The way to light the beacon fire is different during the day and at night. It is called beacon to set fire at night and flint to set off smoke during the day. There are strict rules for setting off fireworks. If the enemy comes less than 1000 people, set off a fireworks. For every 1000 more enemy soldiers, an additional fireworks will be set off. The transmission speed of fireworks is quite fast.
So, is this rammed earth tower left over from ancient times a beacon tower?
From March to April 2005, Li Yufang, a researcher at the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and leader of the Afang palace archaeological team, led archaeologists to explore and excavate the site.
Li Yufang said that the relics unearthed at this site are only limited to the fragments of some banwa and Tongwa. The surface of the board tile is fine and staggered rope pattern, the surface of the barrel tile is fine rope pattern, and the inner surface is pockmarked pattern, and the trace of clay strip is obvious. Whether it’s board tiles or barrel tiles, they are made roughly. Archaeological experts believe that it is the same as the banwa and Tongwa unearthed at Shanglinyuan No. 1 site. It was built much earlier than the Afang palace, which has nothing to do with it.
She also said that the building site is currently seriously damaged, and the East and west of the lower rammed earth foundation have already been excavated, but it is still obvious that there are rammed layers with a thickness of 5-7 cm each. There are disturbed foundation stones in the remaining buildings, and an undisturbed foundation stone is found 1.4m from the bottom in the south, indicating that there are buildings at the bottom and middle waist of the building. Therefore, the building should be a high-rise palace building, and its shape is similar to the No. 1 palace of Xianyang palace, which is also a major feature of the architectural form of the Warring States period. Unfortunately, now the top has been completely destroyed, and the buildings have disappeared.
“This building site should be one of the high tower building sites of Qin Shanglin garden in the Warring States period. It has nothing to do with the buildings of a Fang palace, let alone the beacon tower, which was built before the unification of Qin Dynasty. The beacon tower is a military alarm facility, and it is unconventional to build it in the Royal Park.” Li Yufang said. The emperor of Qin never went to the rooftop to worship the gods has always been an important ceremony for ancient emperors. It is said that the rooftop was the place where the first emperor of Qin offered sacrifices to the gods in the Afang palace. However, there have been three theories about the site of shangtiantai (Shanglinyuan No. 4) since ancient times: first, Emperor Qinshihuang built it for viewing astronomical landscapes; Second, Emperor Qinshihuang built it for Xu Fu — Emperor Qinshihuang sent Xu Fu to the east to look for the medicine of immortality for him. He didn’t return for months. He was very anxious, so he built this high platform to look East, so it also has a name called Wangfu platform; Third, ancient ancestors believed that the harvest of grain and peace and prosperity were blessed by the gods of heaven and earth, so Emperor Qinshihuang regularly led his courtiers to sacrifice heaven and earth to pray for the prosperity of the Qin Empire and the rise of the world.
However, no matter what the reason is, shangtiantai has always been mysteriously connected with Afang palace, and it also continues to give birth to our imagination. What is the truth of it?
Therefore, archaeologists explored and excavated the site from April 2005 to December 2006. After archaeological investigation, exploration and partial excavation of more than 30 square kilometers to the east of the front hall site of Afang palace for nearly a year, Li Yufang found that the legendary shangtiantai site was actually a palace complex in Shanglinyuan built during the Warring States period.
She said that the site of shangtiantai is located in the south of afanggong village and the northeast of zhaojiabao village, Sanqiao Town, Weiyang District, Xi’an. It is 500 meters away from the site of afanggong front hall in the West. There is now a tall earth platform on the ground. With a circumference of about 310 meters and a height of about 20 meters, it is locally known as the “first emperor’s Terrace”, and is one of the most famous architectural legends in the Afang Palace site. Trenches were dug here in the 1940s; In the 1950s and 1970s, local farmers took soil here, built terraces, leveled land on a large scale and other farmland infrastructure construction (in those years, the headquarters was located on the earth platform of the site, and engaged in a thousand mu flat war), so the site was seriously damaged.
Judging from the large number of bricks, tiles, tube tiles and tile Dang and other building materials unearthed at the site, they follow the patterns and techniques popular on the plate tiles and tube tiles in the Warring States period in Guanzhong area, that is, they are the same with the system, shape and decoration of the plate tiles and tube tiles unearthed at the No. 1 building site of Qin Shanglinyuan in the Warring States period. Through the study of Qin tiles unearthed in Guanzhong area of Shaanxi Province, some scholars pointed out that “the decorative patterns of Qin tiles have changed greatly. The general trend is that the rope patterns are getting thicker and coarser, and the decorative patterns are becoming more and more hasty. In the spring and Autumn period, both board tiles and tube tiles were decorated with fine decorative patterns, and most of them were crossed.”
Mr. Wei Xiaozu, a historian, made it clear that “the Qin tiles of the Warring States Dynasty were all made of thin rope patterns.” It is inferred that the rammed earth platform should be the architectural remains of the Warring States period.
Archaeologists compared the No.1 palace architectural site in the palace city of Zhao Wangcheng in Handan in the Warring States Dynasty, the large-scale palace architectural sites such as wuyangtai in the east city of Yanxia capital, the palace architectural site of huangongtai in the palace city of Linzi in Qi, the base site group of zhanghuatai palace of Chu state in Longwan, Qianjiang, Hubei Province, and so on, and determined that the rammed earth platform in the architectural site of shangtiantai belonged to the popular high platform palace buildings in the Warring States period.
History once recorded that there were five gardens in Qin Dynasty, but it was difficult for scholars in Song Dynasty to clarify the scope of Qin Shanglin garden. However, the front hall of the Qin Afang palace was built in the Qin Shanglin garden, which is clearly recorded in the historical records of the first emperor of Qin. “Three auxiliary yellow pictures” also contains: “Han Shanglin garden, that is, the old garden of Qin.” Shanglin garden in the Han Dynasty “stretches from Lantian, Yichun, Dinghu, Yusu and Kunwu in the southeast, to Changyang and wuzha in the west, to Huangshan in the north, to Weihe River in the East, and to a vast circumference of 300 Li”. According to the scope of the above documents, the shangtiantai site is among them, which is undoubtedly a part of the Shanglin garden of the Qin and Han Dynasties.
Li Yufang said that the archaeological excavation data further showed that the site was a high-rise building site of the Warring States Dynasty, that is to say, the Shanglinyuan site had been built during the Warring States period, which solved the long-standing problem about whether there was Shanglinyuan in Xianyang, the capital of Qin, during the Warring States Period. The settlement of this problem also clarifies the long-standing myth that the architectural site has been regarded as the roof of the Afang palace. The construction site of magnet gate (Shanglinyuan No. 6) is 2000 meters northeast of the front hall site of a Fang Palace (located in the armed police Engineering College of Sanqiao town). According to legend, the first emperor of Qin Dynasty “accumulated magnet for it”, so it is called magnet gate. As a safety inspection door similar to modern times, it is to prevent assassins from passing through with the iron absorption performance of magnets when entering the door; Second, in order to show the magic to the “Siyi Dynasty” and make them scared and afraid to have different ideas, it is also called the Hu door.
In order to uncover the truth about the mysterious legend of the magnet stone gate, the Afang palace archaeological team conducted exploration (undercover) and trial excavation of the building site in March, 2007.
Archaeologists carefully examined the manufacturing process of a large number of tiles and tube tiles unearthed at the site, and determined that the age of the site should also be the Warring States period. In this building site, many tiles with inclined thick rope patterns on the surface and a small number of tube tiles with medium thick rope patterns on the surface and cloth patterns on the inner surface, as well as tile Dang fragments with coarse patterns, have also been unearthed, which shows that this building site was also used to the Han Dynasty (Early Western Han Dynasty).
Li Yufang said that the building is located in Shanglin garden, a royal park built by the state of Qin in the south of the Wei River, so it should be a high-rise palace building in Shanglin garden of the state of Qin in the Warring States period, rather than a gate site (without doorway relics and related facilities). It was built earlier than the Afang palace built by the first emperor of Qin after the unification of Qin Dynasty, so it does not belong to the construction of Afang palace. This important discovery of archaeological work makes us clarify the long-term myth that Shanglinyuan No. 6 building site is regarded as the site of magnetic stone gate in Afang palace. Xiang Yu: I was wronged. For many years, it has almost become historical common sense for Xiang Yu to burn the Afang palace. It is clearly written in the historical records: “Xiang Yu led troops to slaughter Xianyang in the west, killed Qin and subdued Wang Ziying; burned the Qin palace, and the fire will not go out in three months.” After describing this magnificent palace in a Fang Gong Fu, Tang poet Du Mu sang with infinite emotion: “Chu people burn a torch, and pity the scorched earth.”
If Xiang Yu’s fire really continued to burn for three months, then some traces should be left in Afang palace. Archaeologists found a large number of fire traces on the Xianyang Palace site not far from the Afang Palace site. Li Yufang said that at the No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 building sites of Xianyang palace, there were traces of fire burning, that is, the walls were white and red. There is also a large amount of wood pile ash, and because the fire is too big, the wood pile has been burned into sulfur slag, and other building materials such as tiles have also been burned into red.
There is no doubt that if you have experienced a fire, the Afang Palace site should also retain a large number of traces of fire. Li Yufang led her archaeological team to find clues on the site of Afang palace, but the workers’ shovels went down again and again, each time bringing only rammed earth, without any traces of fire. The previous archaeological discoveries were basically consistent with the legend of the Afang palace, but this time, the results were quite different.
Li Yufang said that in addition to the ground covered by the villages in the East and West, drilling was also carried out on the open space between houses, as well as in the flower pool, beside the pigsty and beside the toilet. There were five boreholes per square meter. Such intensive drilling did not find any traces of fire.
Has this fire never happened?
Zhaozhijun, another expert from the Institute of Archaeology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, joined in. This expert who is good at looking at the world under a microscope hopes to find the answer in his own laboratory. He took the soil samples obtained from the Afang Palace site back to the laboratory.
Zhao Zhijun said that if the Afang palace was indeed built and burned by Xiang Yu, a thick layer of ashes should be formed on the ruins of the Afang palace. There must be a lot of unfinished charcoal in this ash layer, as well as very small charred sawdust left.
Zhao Zhijun first completely dispersed the soil particles, and then prepared some heavy liquid. The substances with different specific gravity in the soil were separated by flotation. The light objects would float to the surface of the liquid, and the heavy substances would sink to the bottom. The proportion of charred sawdust is very small. If afanggong really experienced a fire, all charred sawdust contained in the soil will float.
He said that if there has been an incineration event in a certain place, the amount of carbonization contained in the stratum soil is very huge. If we make these particles into a microchip, we can see thousands of carbonized sawdust of different sizes and shapes. However, from the soil samples collected from afanggong, this phenomenon is not found, and only 20 or 30 individuals of carbonized sawdust can be seen at most.
Zhao Zhijun’s microscope solves a mystery, but it brings a new problem: Why did Xiang Yu, the overlord of Chu, let go of the more magnificent Afang palace after burning the Xianyang palace?
To find out the truth, we must find more clues. Li Yufang successfully found the east wall, the west wall and the north wall, but the south wall did not appear. Such a magnificent palace cannot have only three walls. She explored all the areas, but only found traces of road soil on the south side of the rammed earth platform — a bold idea slowly emerged in Li Yufang’s mind: Emperor Qinshihuang’s Afang palace had never been built!
Li Yufang gave an amazing explanation based on his archaeological results. This explanation ends the legend of Afang palace that has been circulating for thousands of years – the construction of Afang palace only completed the foundation, but it was not completely completed in the end. In fact, 700000 labors only completed a rammed earth foundation in four years, while the rest of the well-designed buildings were not implemented in the end.
Now, judging from the archaeological findings, the Afang palace remains forever in the dream of Emperor Qin Shihuang. This fabled magnificent palace was not burned by Xiang Yu — that’s because it has never been built. And the fire in Afang palace described by Du Mu in “Fu on Afang Palace” is also fabricated.
Today I sigh, who will complain? The ruins of rammed earth pedestal and three walls are all that remains of Afang Palace today.