Restoring the glory of ancient Song Dynasty

Wu Huixin
To restore the glory days of the Southern Song Dynasty and better protect remaining relics, Hangzhou government is rebuilding Deshou Palace on its original foundations.
Wu Huixin
Restoring the glory of ancient Song Dynasty
Shangcheng District / Ti Gong

An artist’s rendition of the imperial Deshou Palace in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) in Hangzhou’s Shangcheng District. It is estimated that the construction will be completed by September 2022.

The Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279) was one of China’s “golden eras” with a thriving economy, technology and culture. Hangzhou was the capital during the dynasty, and the present-day Shangcheng District was the location of the imperial Deshou Palace.

However, unlike the well-preserved Forbidden City in Beijing, Deshou Palace has been almost completely destroyed over the centuries, with only a few remaining relics and foundations.

Hangzhou is considered the epitome of Southern Song Dynasty culture. Nonetheless, the city lacks a venue to display the dynasty’s enriched culture and antiques.

To restore the glory days of the dynasty and better protect remaining relics, Hangzhou government is rebuilding Deshou Palace on its original foundations.

“The restoration of Deshou Palace is just the beginning,” said Lang Xufeng, director of the Hangzhou garden and cultural relics bureau’s heritage protection department. “Hangzhou will dig deeper into Southern Song culture and protect the ancient imperial city.”

Construction is scheduled to be completed by September in 2022.

The excavation of Deshou Palace started in 2001, and after 20 years the parameters have been established — from Zhijixiang Lane in the east to Zhonghe Road M. in the west and from Wangjiang Road in the south to Beihuabei Road in the north — covering an area of 170,000 square meters.

Local authorities have already unearthed about 7,000 square meters of the palace. The imperial street, empress’s pavilion, royal ancestral temple, gardens, city walls and pipes were discovered after being buried underground for centuries.

However, Hangzhou’s wet climate and complicated geological hydrology were difficult tests for archaeologists who had to refill excavation sites instead of leaving them exposed.

Protection and demonstrations are emphasized based on the government’s restoration plan. The venue will be equipped with hi-tech ventilation systems, water storage facilities, pile-spanning waterproof curtains and protective covers. It will serve as a platform to display soil layers and excavation sites.

Restoring the glory of ancient Song Dynasty
Shangcheng District / Ti Gong

An artist’s rendition of the imperial Deshou Palace in the Southern Song Dynasty (1127-1279)

The rebuilt 1,000-square-meter ground buildings will embody the essence of Deshou Palace. The dynasty’s royal court gave priority to the humanities and turned to people’s inner emotions and a minimalist art style apparent in a large number of preserved artworks. As such, the venue will replicate the dynasty’s wooden architecture style, capturing the classical aesthetics of the time.

Upon completion, the venue will be the only preserved Southern Song Dynasty imperial palace site which will provide other cities with insight into protecting excavation sites in wet climates.

Local government officials invited historians and archaeologists to design venue interiors. The exhibition hall will portray the dynasty from different angles, such as rituals, costumes, food, artworks and daily utensils.

Shangcheng District is home to many Southern Song buildings, streets and blocks, accounting for half of all protected sites in Hangzhou. The local government is planning walkways to link these cultural sites.

West of Deshou Palace sits Southern Song Imperial Street, the former capital’s central axis and the widest street used to transport the emperor and royal family.

The local government transformed it and nearby streets into a stylish creative arts and retail area, which has become a popular tourist attraction since it reopened in 2009.

Another Southern Song Dynasty block, Wuliu Lane which literally means five willows in Chinese, is located at the north side of Deshou Palace. It begins at Doufu No. 3 Bridge and runs to Daoyuan Lane.

The block is named after Five Willow Imperial Palace, built during the dynasty. Though the royal building no longer exists, the lane has been preserved and listed as a key protected site.

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