There is evidence of Neolithic settlements in the west of Luoyang from over five thousand years ago. It first became a capital or royal city at the end of the Shang and beginning of the Zhou dynasty, in the eleventh century BC, when there was a rebellion against the Shang. The Zhou emperor moved in, and though his capital was at Xi’an he established a secondary capital at Luoyang – a walled city where he could survey and control the restive Shang. Invasion on the western front enforced the removal of the capital to Wangcheng, the royal city of the eastern Zhou, in 770 BC under King Ping. In1954 the site of the walls of this city was discovered, and it is now enclosed in Labour Park. Many other discoveries were made during the development of the new industrial area, and the government insisted on archaeologists excavating an area before building was allowed to proceed.
From 770 BC onwards Luoyang was to be the capital of nine dynasties – their individual characteristics and relative importance in regard to the other dynasties of the period would not be exhausted by a lifetime’s research.
770-25 6 BC Eastern Zhou
AD 25-220 Eastern Han
AD 2200-65 Cao-Wei
AD 26 5-316 Western Jin
AD 386-534 Northern Wei
AD 5 81-618 Sui
AD 608-907 Tang
AD 907-23 Later Liang
AD 923-36 Later Tang
The end of the tenth century saw the beginning of the decline of Luoyang, as the centre of China’s political activity shifted from the Yellow River area to the north-east and Peking; the small area which constitutes the old city today dates from this period. It was rebuilt in the Ming dynasty, and Luoyang did not really experience further expansion until the twentieth century. However, during the first thousand years AD it was a vitally important city culturally and commercially, sharing the status and importance of Chang’an (Xi’an) to the west.
One of the most prosperous periods in Luoyang’s history was the Han dynasty, from AD 25 until 534 It is described at this time as a city of noble palaces and dwellings and trees; if was an important cultural centre, where the first imperial university was established in AD 29- a tablet can be seen in the museum, describing how students came from all over the country to attend the college. It was in Luoyang that the famous intellectuals of the Han dynasty carried out their work. Pan Ku wrote the first dynastic history, The Han Shu;Zhang Heng, the court astronomer, worked at the Lingtai Observatory where he developed his armillary sphere, seismoscope and the Chinese calendar; and the physician Hua Tuo used the first anaesthetic. The city saw a decline towards the end of the Northern Wei as the country was racked by war.
The ruins of the city wall of the Han and the Wei can still be seen from the train as you approach from the east, near the pagoda of the White Horse Temple.
The next period of ascendancy for Luoyang came in the Sui and Tang dynasties. This city lay west of the former Han city, had a circumference of
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