a case study in the logic of capital location
The purpose of this activity is for you to consider the logic behind the siting of a capital within a region. Capitals are human designations, meaning that people chose to make one place or another capital. Therefore, since capitals are chosen by humans, there must be a logic to their selection. A place might be chosen as a capital for geographic reasons like being on the banks of a river or near productive farmland; or for economic reasons like being near important trade routes. There may be military, religious or historic reasons why a site is chosen to be capital. Whatever the reason, decoding the logic behind capital location provides insight into the priorities of the ruling powers in a society at the time the capital was selected.
Chang'an, the modern city of Xian in central China, was capital of China for nearly 1100 years through the Zhou (1000 - 221BCE), Qin-Han (221 BCE 220 CE) and Sui-Tang (581 - 906 CE) dynasties. Its name means "Everlasting Peace". Obviously for it be the capital for so long, this location must have had strong and persistent advantages that appealed to the leaders of dynasties. This location should therefore be an excellent place to attempt to decode the logic behind the selection of Chinese capitals.
The Introductory Set:
A: Tang Period Chang'an (580 - 906 CE)
During the Sui-Tang dynasties (580 906 CE), Chang'an (map) was the worlds largest and most cosmopolitan city. We have several accounts of the city at that time. By carefully reading these accounts we can detect some of the reasons why Chang'an was the most logical position for Chinas capital during this era.
B: The Qin Period (221 - 206 BCE)
We know much less about Changan during the Qin period than we do about the city in the Tang period. We know the most about the First Qin Emperors tomb and the Terracotta Warriors he buried there to guard it. Use the CITY webgate, Terracotta Warriors PhotoSee Gallery and your research to develop a basic understanding of the First Qin Emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di and his Terracotta Warriors.Once you have completed your research answer the questions below.
Because the Terracotta Army was meant to protect the Emperor in the afterlife, it tells us a great deal about how the first Qin emperor perceived his world and who he perceived as his enemies. Examine a map of the Emperors tomb site. Locate the Terracotta Warriors on the map.