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Layout of Kublai Khan's capital sketched out
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Aerial view of Yuan Shangdu

Aerial view of Yuan Shangdu 

Chinese archaeologists said in Hohhot on Wednesday that they have sketched out the layout of the first capital of Kublai Khan's empire, known as Xanadu in Marco Polo's Travel Notes, through a large-scale excavation.

"The most exciting findings are the layout of moat in front of the Mingde Gate to the royal capital and the highest building of Muqingge in the three-month long excavation on the ruins of Yuan Shangdu," said Yang Xingyu, a senior archaeologist with the Inner Mongolia regional bureau of cultural relics.

The capital Shangdu was built in 1256 under the command of Kublai Khan, the first emperor of Yuan Dynasty, who was enthroned there four years later. It became a summer resort after the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) moved its capital to present-day Beijing in 1276, and was destroyed during a peasant war at the end of the dynasty.

Yang said that the excavation program, the largest of its kind on the ruins, is expected to take three years to unearth and restore some of the ancient structures in Shangdu in an area of 1,500 square meters.

"We found the royal mansion of Muqingge built on a drained lake is of Han nationality characters, since the Mongolian emperor mainly deployed Han workers to build Shangdu," he said.

Italian traveler Marco Polo (1254-1324) once described the prosperity of Yuan Shangdu in his book, which aroused great interest from many overseas archaeologists, historians and travelers.

"The Italian traveler was probably received by the emperor Kublai Khan in Shangdu through the gate of Mingde, which could only be passed by royal members and dignities," said the archaeologist.

The ruins of Shangdu in the Zuolan Banner in north China's Inner Mongolia have been overgrown.

The regional government has submitted an application for World Cultural Heritage status for the site to the state department for the preservation of cultural and historical relics and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

The Web site of the World Heritage Site showed the historical remains at Yuan Shangdu has been part of China's tentative list.

"It is widely acknowledged in the archeological world that the building of the Yuan Dynasty capital in Beijing, known as Dadu, inherited that of Shangdu. The structures and many names of the landmarks are the same or similar," said Yang.

(Xinhua News Agency July 8, 2009)

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