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Archaeologists in China Find the 'Greatest Palace That Ever Was'

Archaeologists in China Find the 'Greatest Palace That Ever Was'

Tourists inside the Forbidden City in Beijing August 23, 2008. | (Photo: Reuters/Kevin Coombs)

Archaeologists in China say they have found part of the famed Kublai Khan palace in the city of Beijing, historically nicknamed "the greatest palace that ever was."

The discovery of the palace's foundation was made recently by excavators in Beijing's Forbidden City at the Palace Museum.

During routine maintenance of the museum's underground area, construction workers discovered a thick slab of foundation that they believed served as the basis for the palace of Kublai Khan during the Yuan Dynasty, as well as the palaces during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

The palace has become a facet of folklore for its fabled opulence, including a dining area that could sit up to 6,000 people, according to the South China Morning Post.

Wang Guangyao, who serves as the deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology at the Palace Museum, told The Week that the discovery, although small, sheds light on how the multiple dynasties in China were connected to one another.

"From a historical perspective, it gives us evidence that the architectural history runs uninterrupted from the Yuan, to the Ming and Qing dynasties," Guangyao said.

Guangyao told South China Morning Post that although much research needs to be done on the palace's meager remains, it is a start to determining the location of the opulent home and fortress to Kublai Khan, who ruled China from 1271 to 1294.

"At least we now know that the palace was not built somewhere else but here," Guangyao said.

China has been a hotbed of important archaeological discoveries, ranging from Emperor Qin Shi Huang's Terracotta Warrior Army in Xi'an to the Great Wall of China.

Earlier this year, researchers at Stanford University reported that the analysis of pottery shards from northern China indicate that the Chinese may have been fermenting their own beer nearly 5,000 years ago.

The pottery shards were discovered in the northern city of Mijiaya and dated back to 3400 and 2900 BC. The shards contained residue of several plants, including barley, millet, and a type of grain known as Job's Tears.

Jiajing Wang of Stanford University, who oversaw the research of the pottery, told The Guardian that the discovery indicates that the Chinese might have been brewing alcoholic beverages for consumption, instead of cooking, 1,000 years before previously thought.

"China has an early tradition of fermentation and evidence of rice-based fermented beverage has been found from the 9000-year-old Jiahu site. However, to our knowledge, [the new discovery] is the first direct evidence of in situ beer making in China," Wang said.

The discovery also sheds light on the societal structures of ancient China, with researchers writing in their report for Stanford University tha "the production and consumption of Yangshao beer may have contributed to the emergence of hierarchical societies in the Central Plain, the region known as 'the cradle of Chinese civilization.'"


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