Dongjing Longyuanfu of the Bohai (Parhae) State — The main street with an enormous width

CORONA Satellite Photograph over the ruin of Baliancheng, northeastern China

Plan of Dongjing Longyuanfu restored by Noboru Ogata using the above satellite photograph

According to Xin-Tang-shu, the official history of Tang China, Dongjing Longyuanfu (Eastern Capital), one of the five capitals of the Bohai (Parhae) State, faced the sea southeastward and was referred to as the gateway to Japan. It was the king’s capital for a short period circa 790 AD. The ruin of Baliancheng (ABCD in the above figure) had been considered to be the site of Dongjing. It is located by Tumen River and near Hunchun, Jilin Province in northeastern China. Masaru Saitô, an amateur archaeologist, who surveyed the site in early 1940’s, considered the plan of Dongjing to be wider than Baliancheng and to have grid-pattern streets. In his theory, Baliancheng was the inner city (the Palace Site) of Dongjing.

By examining the above satellite photograph over the site, we can find some traces of grid-pattern streets outside Baliancheng. Among these, the main street (E-F in the figure) and the northernmost lateral street (G-H in the figure) were of enormous width (190 meters and 130 meters respectively). These are remarkable features of the plan of Dongjing. However, other part of the city including outer city wall seems to have never been constructed. Unlike Shangjing Longquanfu (Northern Capital), which were the king’s capital for the longest time, the plan of Dongjing can be considered to have been selectively implemented.

Nara, the capital of Japan in the 8th century, also had grid-pattern streets and a wide main street. From the reconstruction of the plan of ancient Nara using aerial photographs, it is known that the city blocks near the main street were selectively well constructed. These features can be partly explained by the fact that these plans and the buildings on them were displays to foreign visitors to show off the power of the country. Such a conspicuous nature seems to have been shared by the East Asian cities of the time.

By Noboru Ogata, Kyoto University


Last Updated: 05/Mar/2014

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