Chaotian Palace, which was recognized as “the Most Famous
Historical Site” in Nanjing in Ming(1368-1644) and Qing(1644-1911)
Dynasties, is a place of a group of splendid ancient palace
buildings. The place got its name, which means worship the emperor,
in 1385 by the founding Emperor of Ming Dynasty. The existing
buildings was rebuilt and repaired in 1866, and it covers an area
of about 40,000 square meters.
The history of Chaotian Palace could be traced back to 2500 years
ago. During the Spring and Autumn Period(770-476 B.C.), one of the
earliest cities named “Ye City ” was built on a hill of present-day
Chaotian Palace. The King of Wu set up a big smelting workshop at
the place for making weapons at that time, thus, the hill was named
“Ye hill” (Ye means smelting in Chinese).
During the Three Kingdoms Period(220-280), Sun Quan made Nanjing
his capital and established smelting workshop at Ye hill for making
weapons, coins and articles for daily use.
In the early years of Eastern Jin Dynasty(317-420A.D.), Ye hill
became a private residence of Prime Minister Wang Dao , then it was
renamed “West Garden” . With beautiful scenery, lovely animals and
luxuriant vegetation, many famous people often gathered at the
garden. However, the smelting workshop was still in the garden.
According to annals, Prime Minister Wang Dao suffered from a long
time illness at that time, however, after the smelting workshop was
removed to another place, Wang Dao was recovered without any
treatments. The place became a real scenic spot from then on.
The hall in Memory of Bian Kun and the tomb of Bian Kun were
located in the west of Ye hill originally. Bian Kun, who was a
famous general in Eastern Jin Dynasty(317-420A.D.), and his son
repaid their country with loyalty and they died a heroic death in a
war in 328 A.D.. His tomb was repaired through the ages.
According to annals, Wang Xizhi, who was a famous calligrapher in
Eastern Jin Dynasty, have been in here together with Xie An, also a
famous people in Eastern Jin Dynasty, leaving beautiful poems about
In 470 A.D. of the Southern Dynasties(420-589A.D.), Zongming Temple
was built here. It was the highest-ranking academic research
institution in the southern part of China at that time. Five
courses, including Literature, History, Confucianism, Taoism, Yin
and Yang, were set at Zongming Temple, meanwhile over 20 scholars
taught there. Later, the temple was abolished. In addition,
different schools of Taoist thought and Taoism combined with each
other, so the place became a famous spot for propagating Taoism
from then on.
During Tang Dynasty(618-907A.D.), Taiqing Palace was built here for
propagating Taoism. Li Bai and Liu Yuxi, famous poets at that time,
have been here for several times.
During Northern Song Dynasty(960-1127A.D.), the place were renamed
Tianqing Temple. Su Shi ,Wang Anshi and Lu You, famous people at
that time, have been here. In the late years of Northern Song
Dynasty, Wen Tianxiang, who was the national hero in Chinese
history, have been in Tianqing Temple when he was captured by Yuan
Army and sent to Beijing, leaving vehement verses.
During Yuan Dynasty(1271-1368), the place was called Xuanmiao
Temple. Later, it was renamed Yongshou Palace.
In 1385, the place was rebuilt and repaired by the founding Emperor
Zhu Yuanzhang of Ming Dynasty(1368-1683), then it got a new name
“Chaotian Palace”. The place became a site for practicing royal
ceremony before Spring Festival, the Winter Solstice and the
Birthday of the Emperor.
In Ming Dynasty(1368-1683), Chaotian Palace was the biggest Taoism
Temple in Nanjing. The scale of the place was so large, meanwhile,
many magnificent buildings and halls were built in the place
at that time. Originally, there were two important tablets built in
the place. One, which reflected the rebuild of the place in Ming
Dynasty, is in front of Dacheng Gate nowadays, however, a part of
the other was destroyed.
At the end of Ming Dynasty, part of the buildings at the place were
destroyed because of the war. With the development and recovery of
the economy in the regions south of the Yangtze River, Chaotian
Palace was rebuilt gradually and expanded on a large scale during
the period of Kangxi(1662-1722) and Qianlong(1736-1799)in Qing
Dynasty. The two Emperors have been in Chaotian Palace for several
times. A tall and big tablet, carved with five poems by Qianlong
Emperor for his five visits of Chaotian Palace, is inside a
pavilion on the hill at the place nowadays.
During Daoguang period (1821-1850)in Qing Dynasty, the place
suffered from fire many times, the direction of the Dashan Gate of
Chaotian Palace was changed into southeast from east according to
the geomantic omen. During the period of Taiping Heavenly Kingdom,
powder was made and stored in Chaotian Palace. In 1866, Taoism
Temple was changed into Confucian Temple and the Jiangning
Prefectural College was moved here by Zeng Guofan, the official in
charge of Jiangsu and Jiangxi province. From then on, among the
ancient palace buildings, Confucian Temple is in the middle, the
Jiangning Prefectural College is in the east and the Hall in Memory
of Bian Kun is in the west .
Compared with similar buildings south of the Yangtze River,
Chaotian Palace is the largest in scale, the highest in grade and
the best in preservation. With high historical, scientific and
artistic value, the layout, building technology of it are the most
important materials for researching Chinese ancient buildings,
especially the buildings of Ming and Qing Dynasty.
It is worth mentioning that Chantian Palace was one of the 48
scenic spots in Ming and Qing Dynasties in the history of Nanjing,.
With the long history and beautiful scenery, Chaotian Palace is so
famous in Nanjing from ancient times to the present. It is a
precious pearl of the ancient city.
Nanjing Municipal Museum is inside Chaotian Palace nowadays. In the
museum, you can not only enjoy the magnificent Chinese ancient
palace buildings, but also visit the exquisite exhibitions about
the history of Nanjing. The ancient buildings and the treasures add
radiance and beauty to each other, attracting the visitors all over